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Strong Past, Bright Future

Tony Kimbrough, Chief Executive Officer
VEO Voice, Issue 1 | April 6, 2023

VEO started in 2008 with a mission to help restore dignity to veterans living on the streets of Atlanta. After 15 years of service, read here about the current CEO’s vision to make a difference for veterans working toward self sufficiency through collaboration and partnership! 

When we look back on 2008, we realize it was a unique time in history. As a nation, we were fighting two wars on two different fronts. We were experiencing one of the greatest recessions in our nation's history. Veteran homelessness was at an all-time high. We truly did not understand how mental health would impact our veterans returning home from war. 

The military was far more advanced in technology and fighting than in previous wars and would experience fewer battlefield deaths. We experienced more of our warriors coming back from war with physical and emotional wounds, putting more and more strain on an outdated VA health care system that already struggled to provide the care our veterans earned and deserved. These wars put tremendous strain on our active-duty military, reservists and National Guard. By 2008, our warriors were experiencing their second and third tours of combat of what we now know were just the infancy stages of a 20-year war.

From humble beginnings, Veterans Empowerment Organization was birthed by one person having compassion for another, opening his house for the unsheltered, using his resources to help restore a sense of dignity. Fifteen years ago, one simple question would be the motivating factor that would propel VEO. “How can the most powerful and wealthiest country in world let down so many of our veterans?” Veterans need a VA health care system where they don’t have to wait in line for months for check-ups, surgeries, and mental health services. Veterans need a VA health care system that does not take a stance of denying benefit and compensation claims when there is supporting evidence. Veterans need a VA health care system that opens its mail and does not let it pile up for months while veterans urgently await answers about diagnoses and prescriptions.

For 15 years, VEO has answered, “Not on our watch.” VEO is proud to stand with many other Veteran Service Organizations, companies, foundations, donors, and volunteers, who answered “Not on our watch.” Today, there are hundreds of thousands of us working together across our nation to address the challenges facing our veterans, using all available resources to restore a sense of dignity. Starting 15 years ago, one simple answer―”Not on our watch.”―has guided VEO to where we are today.

Where do we go from here? How do we serve our veteran community in 2023 and in the future? I believe the landscape has changed for the better: we have more VSOs that are doing great work, and we must collaborate and share our resources to make a greater difference and a more meaningful impact. In the past, VEO had to be a jack-of-all-trades. Today, we do not. Now is the time to accomplish much more by leaning into our partner organizations to better serve our veteran community, and allowing VEO to focus on what we do best.

We look forward to celebrating VEO’s 15 years of service with you this year and sharing our vision of how we will make a difference together through collaboration and partnership. Stay tuned to future newsletters as we share new and exciting progress. We are proud of our strong past, but we are working toward a brighter future.

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