The website of the Citizens/Veterans Advisory Council of Cape May County (CVAC) is a comprehensive, online clearinghouse of resources for veterans.
Designed and built specifically to meet the needs of veterans of all armed services and their families, the website is accessible at www.CVACcapemay.com.
The project was spearheaded in response to a recognized need: pooling resources available to veterans and their families under a single, virtual rooftop.
“We discovered early on that no single online source of information existed for the county’s veteran population,” said Vicki D. Lachman, Ph.D., APRN, of Avalon, who spearheaded the website’s development. Dr. Lachman is chairperson of the CVAC’s Health Committee, a veteran of the U.S. Army Vietnam Nurse Corps, and Stone Harbor Post 331 adjutant. She led the research effort for content, and Frank Davis of Avalon did the technical work. Davis is a member of Sons of the American Legion Squadron 331 in Stone Harbor and also built its website.
Dr. Lachman explained that in the course of establishing the committee, its members kept hearing the same questions from veterans and their families. The website was created with the goal of providing answers.
“The issues run the gamut, from health care and accessing veterans benefits, to legal help and basic needs like food, housing and home maintenance. CVAC was founded to address these issues and coordinate resources existing in the community. And it became obvious very quickly that we needed an online gateway,” Dr. Lachman said.
Dr. Lachman and her team discovered that many services designed to benefit veterans exist in a variety of sectors. But until now, no single source for universal access existed.
For example, the services offered by the Veterans Administration are far-reaching and extensive, from basic and specialized health care to long-term care in the nursing home setting. But the system is large and veterans need support in understanding what is available and how to access it.
The website also brings together many smaller service providers that serve veterans in the county.
With the launching of the website and the many hours of research the team completed to generate useful and relevant content, many providers in government, community and the not-for-profit sector have also discovered many veterans benefits that were previously unknown.
“It’s a real win-win. The veterans are getting access to information they need and the providers are gaining knowledge needed to point them in the right direction,” Dr. Lachman said.
The website is comprehensive and easy to use. It includes orientation and educational document downloads, contact information for key individuals throughout the county and many links to providers. The website also features a member-only section. This section is not operational yet, but will include minutes from meetings, by-laws and contact information of members.
CVAC is focused on meeting the needs of veterans throughout the county by bringing providers and veterans together. Founder/chairman Johnnie Walker, Villas, planted the seeds for CVAC in 2012 after a homeless vet reached out to him for help. He turned to social media and volunteers responded with enthusiasm. Walker recruited other experts and formalized his efforts with the creation of CVAC in 2013.
“This website is an important milestone in our mission to get services and resources into the hands of our veterans,” Walker said. “Dr. Lachman and Mr. Davis are to be commended for managing the effort, along with all the individuals who contributed additional resources,” he said.