Helping America's most vulnerable®

Connecting Veterans with Veterans

Battle-Buddy-Bridge (B3) Program

Battle-Buddy-Bridge (B3) is a program developed by Volunteers of America to provide services and opportunities to military veterans and their families. Launched in late 2012, B3 trains and certifies veterans as peer support specialists and community resource navigators (“battle buddies”) who assist other veterans and families in need of resources such as housing, health care, family support, education, employment, legal services, and benefits assistance. The programs is currently operating in Los Angeles County with plans to expand this program across the country over the next several years as part of our ongoing commitment to serving veterans and families, a cornerstone of our mission since our founding in 1896.

Why B3?

B3 fulfills a dual purpose: providing assistance to veterans and families in need of resources and also offering opportunities to veterans in search of mission-oriented work after separation from the military.

Veterans and families in need are often unable to access critical resources due to barriers such as fear of stigma, mistrust of government and/or civilian providers and negative past experiences, poor knowledge of available community resources, limited mobility due to health and transportation challenges, and the prevalence of complex, confusing community systems (the “resource maze”). As a consequence, urgent needs such as mental and physical health concerns, housing and/or job instability, and worsening family dynamics can escalate into emergencies such as homelessness, unemployment, and mental and physical health crises.

B3 battle buddies are able to reduce such access barriers by engaging veterans as peers and offering skillful navigation of needed resources. In the process, battle buddies re-engage in team-focused, purpose-driven activities and receive professional training, employment, career development and multi-sector networking to aid in their own reintegration journeys.

Eight battle buddies so far have obtained employment as a result of the training, experience and networking from this program.

How does B3 work?

Battle buddies are divided into squads and work under the direct supervision of squad leaders with oversight by a platoon leader. The squads currently in place or under development include:

  • Outreach and Engagement Squad - responds to 211 referrals; screens and refers based on Veteran goals and needs and partners with VA outreach team
  • School-Based Squad - assists student veterans in navigating school system, educates colleges/universities on military culture, holds campus resource fairs
  • Female Outreach and Engagement Squad - outreach and resource connection for women veterans and dependents and strengthens the women veteran community in LA County

B3 squads are strategically deployed and dispatched to reach veterans and families via a variety of avenues, including: word of mouth and social media; referrals from our programs, 211 LA County, and VA and Vets Centers; outreach on the street, in jails and in the court system; and engagement with colleges and universities.

Squads are equipped with vehicles, smart phones, and operational coordination and critical support from Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles. Battle buddies are able to offer veterans facilitated access to clinical services at the VA, LA County, and academic health care systems.

To date in 2015, B3 squads have reached approximately 240 veterans in LA County.

How are battle buddies trained and supported?

Battle buddies are veterans of all eras who are primarily recruited from our residential and veteran services network. Battle buddies are prepared for service through a three to four week B3 “boot camp” that includes comprehensive training on community resources, locations, and eligibility as well as tours of various facilities and meetings with key community players. Battle buddies also receive veteran-specific peer support specialist training conducted by two VA-approved trainers, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and Recovery Innovations. Training is trauma-informed and covers topics such as military cultural competency, managing mental illness and addiction, promoting recovery, navigation techniques, suicide awareness, and motivational interviewing. Battle buddies complete a certification exam at the conclusion of peer support specialist training.

We provide supervision and clinical support to battle buddies and also offer monthly recreational and team-building activities to promote squad cohesiveness and avoid member burnout. Battle buddies receive stipends for their service provided by public and private funders.

How does B3 measure success?

B3 measures success by evaluating progress toward two primary objectives: 1) improved access to community resources for veterans in need and 2) improved well-being of battle buddies.

For Objective 1, we record basic demographic data, current housing and health status, and resource requests and referrals for every veteran receiving B3 assistance. These veterans are also asked to complete follow-up surveys at three, six, and nine-month intervals. These surveys provide longer-term information on participants’ housing and health status, satisfaction with B3 engagement, and success in accessing resources.

For Objective 2, we require that all battle buddies complete a baseline survey assessing various aspects of well-being (e.g., quality of life, depression symptomology). Battle buddies retake the survey at three-month intervals during B3 service to track their individual trajectories.

What’s next for B3?

We are receiving growing requests for the expansion of B3 and we are actively pursuing additional resource opportunities to meet this demand with a short-term goal of launching additional squads and expanding into Orange County during 2015. Our long-term goal is to deploy 1,000 battle buddies across our national footprint of 33 affiliate offices over the next five years.

If you are interested in learning more about our Battle Buddies program, please contact Jim Zenner
Phone: (818) 618-7972
Zenner@usc.edu