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United Effort

Stephen Moss served as an Army company commander during the Vietnam War. His daughter, Shannon, served in the Iraq War, where she was injured in a firefight. “It took two years of misdiagnosis, red tape and complications before she got the surgery she needed,” he says. The delay in having her shoulder reconstructed left her with a permanent disability and unable to pursue the career in law enforcement she envisioned.


Moss was an eager ear at a United Way Broward annual meeting nearly nine years ago when then United Way Broward CEO Jennifer O’Flannery Anderson said the organization wanted to help veterans. Moss, a partner with Holland and Knight in Fort Lauderdale, was one of six people who attended the inaugural meeting for the veterans advisory council and became its chair. The council found a need from veterans and desire by community groups and the Veterans Administration to provide help, but efforts were splintered and uncoordinated.


What emerged from that council in January 2013 was Mission United, a Broward innovation that’s spread to nine United Ways in Florida and a total of 25 in the nation. “He led the committee and was instrumental in Mission United becoming adopted nationally by United Way,” says Hattie Hess, United Way Broward vice president for marketing and communications.


The national group is raising money to fund a full-time director. Moss is the national chair. (Broward United Way has had an influx of young veterans to lead the local Mission United.)


In Broward, the effort has six “pillars” — housing, employment, legal assistance, education, financial stability and health care. In Broward, more than 10,000 veterans have been served. Some 2,500 homeless veterans are no longer homeless — a 90% success rate — thanks to the group’s efforts and $12 million over the years from the VA to provide security deposits, first and last month’s rents, some basic furniture and other assistance, Moss says.
Some 400 attorneys have volunteered to serve veterans in civil matters and to pursue benefits and services for them from the VA. “It’s truly amazing,” Moss says. (Moss says the VA is happy to have attorneys help veterans navigate the system.)