This week the West Virginia Legislature is asking veterans and military personnel from across the state to participate in a survey that will collect information about health, work, education, family, retirement, and benefits, as part of an initiative to help improve services and resources for our military heroes and their families.
More than 8,000 service members from all eras, ages, and services in West Virginia will receive a postcard this week requesting their participation. The survey is available online at www.wvmilitarysurvey.com. Interested participants can also call 1-855-299-6605 toll-free to schedule a telephone interview.
Survey participants will be entered into a drawing for a VISA cash gift card (one $500 gift card, five $100 gift cards, and thirty $50 gift cards will be given away).
In 2008, the Legislature sent surveys to 6,000 veterans of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. Both the former and the new survey are the most comprehensive surveys of veterans undertaken by any state.
"Back in 2007, horror stories in the media about the treatment of wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan prompted the Legislature to study whether our state was doing everything we could to help them," said Del. Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, co-chair of the Veterans Interim Committee. "We figured the best way to find out what was needed was to ask veterans themselves."
The new survey will be expanded to include all members of the military, past and present.
"The data from our first survey was very valuable," said Fleischauer. "Our hope is that our second survey will give us a better understanding of the daily lives and well-being of all of our service members, and allow us to tailor state services to better match their needs."
Managing the survey project for the Legislature is Atlas Research, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business experienced in health care, services, and research, particularly around veteran, rural, disabled, women, homeless, and minority populations.
Atlas has partnered with Joseph Scotti, Ph.D., WVU professor of psychology, and Roy Tunick, Ed.D, WVU professor of rehabilitation counseling and counseling psychology, to design the survey and analyze results. Both Drs. Scotti and Tunick along with Atlas Senior Vice President Hilda R. Heady conducted the 2008 survey.
"This is a unique opportunity for service members to tell us about the great resources out there, as well as the obstacles they face," said Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, chair of the Senate Military Committee and a Lieutenant Commander of the U.S. Navy Reserve. "The Legislature wants to know what works and doesn't work for service members in all corners of our state."
"We need service members to share their experiences so that we can work together as a state to provide them with the critical support and resources they need and deserve," said Del. Richard Iaquinta, D-Harrison, chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and an Army veteran.
"The Legislature is sincere about making changes for a better West Virginia to truly honor our veterans and service members."