As I sit here surrounded by the executive leadership of the California Veteran Community. It’s day 2 of the CalVet Leadership Summit, a gathering of the Senior and Executive Level leaders of US Dept. of Veterans Affairs, CA Veterans Affairs, the County VSOs, DAV, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Swords to Plowshares, VetFund Foundation, other Veteran Service Organizations from around the state. I’ve never seen every VA Medical Center and Regional Office, and County VSO in one room at the same time. The newly appointed CalVet Secretary, Dr Vito Imbasciani MD called this summit to identify barriers faced by the Veterans of California and create strategies and alliances to better serve the Veterans. The Secretary and other leaders have set a tone of leaving politics and agendas at the door.
I was asked to attend and represent the LGBT Veterans in the State. The timing of this Summit couldn’t have been more perfect. I was laid off from my position at VOA as a Peer Support Specialist in the HUD-VASH Program due to lack of funding. With my experience of being an underemployed and homeless Veteran I have an insight in the struggles of the Veterans that most of these leaders don’t know first hand. At first I asked myself why am I here? I don’t belong in this room surrounded by these executives with travel budgets and resources to give up a week to travel to the Capitol. However, some how The gods smiled down on me and made this opportunity possible.
When I return back to LA, I’ll be using the contacts made here to plan the upcoming Operation: Do Ask, Do Tell 2016 and establish resources and programs for the Veterans in LA, and possibly find a new position working to continue to serve LGBT Veterans not only in LA but across the State.