Each year about 200,000 service members separate or retire from the military, many without clear employment and healthcare plans for the future.
Among key issues, veterans face include navigating VA healthcare and benefits, acquiring and maintaining employment, adjusting back into civilian culture, and the myriad financial struggles that can stem from each.
Adding to that navigational difficulty is the fact that there are currently more than 45,000 nonprofits in the US. They all trying to provide services that range from housing and mental health to food security, as mentioned in the 2015-report from the nonprofit GuideStar.
Veterans Dan Brillman and Taylor Justice saw this fragmented system firsthand.
Brillman served as an Air Force reserve pilot who deployed to the Middle East in 2010 and 2012. Justice left the Army in 2007 after serving as an infantry officer due to medical reasons. They met in 2012 at Columbia Business School.
“Within about five minutes [of meeting] we both realized a shared passion and vision for what was needed,” says Justice.
Difficult to Navigate
The veterans are attempting to navigate the world of healthcare and social services. The delays and administrative nightmares alone can be enough to discourage seeking help, they said. Moreover, some agencies were even working with outdated sticky notes and word of mouth to communicate with other agencies.
“When you’re working with someone dealing with PTSD or other mental health needs you have to be very careful. Because putting them into an environment that is super frustrating can be triggering,” says Justice.
So, In 2013, Brillman and Justice co-founded the technology company Unite Us, with the intention of bridging the gap of coordinated care and providing an access point to community, healthcare, and other veteran services. Today, Unite Us supports 42 states across the country and offers software accessible to any military member, veteran, or military family member, regardless of discharge status.