RD762 - Virginia Department Of Veterans Services Commissioner’s 2021 Annual Report – December 1, 2021

Executive Summary:

Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) was an extraordinary year for the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS). Undoubtedly, COVID-19 hindered our in-person services, especially in the winter months of the year, as we focused on employee and veteran safety. Yet, we saw opportunities to balance virtual offerings with more in-person services toward the end of FY21, and resume many outreach activities that were regular elements of our work within the community. We expect even more success going forward as we round out our workforce, manage COVID-19 as endemic, and work with current and future stakeholders to serve Virginia’s veterans and their families in new and more optimal ways.

By using virtual methods to serve veterans and their families, we solidified another path to reaching Virginia’s 713,000+ veterans. We successfully held a second Women Veterans Virtual Summit, and broadcasts of both Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies reached thousands of Virginians. The Virginia Veteran and Family Support (VVFS) program increased its group services for veterans over last year, and more virtual peer sessions played a role in this increase. Benefits’ outreach resulted in over 226,000 contacts, greater than FY18, FY19, and FY20; combined with an annual claims success rate above our goal, we contributed to the $3.90 billion in disability benefits that reached Virginia’s veterans. The Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program (VMSDEP) ended the fiscal year with a record number of applications. Companies certified through the V3 program hired over 20,000 veterans. At the same time, VDVS’s V3 Transitions (V3T) program provided transition assistance to over 78,000 talented veterans, transitioning service members and their spouses, mostly through virtual means, including virtual hiring fairs. The Communications team aggressively pursued earned media, resulting in a visible presence across the Commonwealth that is an essential element of our awareness campaign.

Both our Cemeteries division and Veterans Care Centers persevered through unique challenges. Cemeteries flawlessly honored veterans during a period of increased interments, all while a major expansion project at our Amelia Cemetery was ongoing. Following a difficult start to the Fiscal Year, COVID cases at our Veterans Care Centers decreased drastically following widespread vaccinations, allowing more family visits and the resumption of many quality of life activities for residents.

Throughout 2021, VDVS aligned our strategic goals, objectives and intent to becoming a port of entry for veterans and families to access earned benefits and needed resources. As a port of entry to and provider of direct services, we also focused on instilling a framework of inclusiveness that creates sustainable change, innovation, and productivity across the agency.

I consider it a great privilege and the highest honor to work with a team that remains passionate and dedicated to providing outstanding service to veterans and their families in any condition.

Service through teamwork.

John Maxwell