Texas is home to nearly 1.6 million veterans and about 170,000 active-duty military personnel. About 70,000 veterans and about 36,000 active-duty troops are in Bell and Coryell counties.
About 20 percent of the state’s veterans are listed with the U.S. Census Bureau as having a service-connected disability.
With the veteran demand higher than the supply of services, Catholic Charities of Central Texas saw the need to open an office in Killeen, along with virtual services to provide counseling, employment/education services, and financial assistance, according to a news release from the charity organization.
Catholic Charities of Central Texas received a grant from the Texas Veterans Commission, Fund for Veterans’ Assistance.
Catholic Charities of Central Texas has offices in Bryan/College Station and Austin, and with the help of the grant, they opened an office in Killeen in September.
The Killeen location is in partnership with St. Joseph Catholic Church at 2903 E. Rancier Ave.
Officials named the local program, at the urging of a veteran on staff, “St. Michael’s Veterans Services.”
Any active-duty service member, veteran (regardless of discharge status), and their families, regardless of faith, are eligible for services, most at no cost. Counseling services are offered at $10, and include virtual services.
Services include licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed practical counselors and licensed masters of social workers on staff to provide counseling services.
“We can help military members transition from military life to civilian life,” said Sara Ramirez, executive director of Catholic Charities of Central Texas.
With veteran unemployment being 4.1 percent of the Texas veteran population, Catholic Charities also offers employment and education services.
“We help build resumes to change the language of military job tasks to civilian ones,” Ramirez said. “We also provide interview assistance. I am the wife of a Marine vet, and I saw how difficult it was to navigate the many services offered by the Veterans Commission.”
Ramirez said the organization assists veterans with finding and applying for the best education service to fit the veteran’s needs.
Ramirez said the organization conducted three years of research to ensure they understood the needs of the military, and the grant is an annual and competitive one.
“We like to make sure the highest quality of services is provided to our military. We take it seriously to be a shield for them at home,” she said.
The Killeen office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and offers extended hours for counseling until 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. The office can be reached at 254-383-1452. Virtual counseling is also offered.
“We service members located in the 25 Central Texas counties, and can come to the veteran or service member,” Ramirez said.