Resumption of cooperation between the Ministries of Veterans of Ukraine and the VA United States

On 16 May 2024, senior officials from the Ministry of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine and the US Department of Veterans Affairs met internationally. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a body that performs functions similar to those of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs in the Ukrainian government. Still, the VA United States is the second largest funding agency after the U.S. Department of Defence. The critical topic of the meeting was the "Veteran's Journey Map" or "Veteran's Path," focusing on veterans' adaptation, rehabilitation, and employment needs.

Acting Minister of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine Oleksandr Porkhun confirmed the government's intention to roll out Veteran's Journey Maps, which will become part of the Ministry's strategy. As part of the Veteran's Journey, the state will take care of the needs of veterans from the moment they are recruited into the army to the last breath of the veteran. He noted that Ukraine's newest veterans' policy is being created now. The task of government officials is to combine the best international practices with their own experience gained over the years of the "young ministry" and, in particular, through cooperation with global partners. Oleksandr Porkhun noted the importance of resuming relations with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after the 2021 pause. He expressed gratitude to American partners for their cooperation and support for the people of Ukraine.

Marta Pyvovarenko, Head of the Department of Quality Assurance of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services (MHPSS) at the NGO «Community Self-Help», who has been actively advocating for cooperation and experience exchange with the Pentagon since 2020, introduced the American colleague: Mr. John Boerstler, Chief Veterans Experience Officer; Ms. Melissa Cohen (President Biden's daughter-in-law), who is the Executive Director, Outreach, Transition, Economic Development; Dr. Steven Lieberman, Deputy Under Secretary for Health; and Mr. Mike Frueh, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits.

Olexandr Porkhun  introduced his deputies, Mr. Maxym Kushnir, Ms. Oksana Syvak, and Mr. Farhad Farhadov, and briefed the US colleagues on the main strategic areas of cooperation between the ministries:

  1. Rehabilitation. He noted that medical and psychological rehabilitation is a priority, but physical and sports rehabilitation (including veteran sports) is also essential.

  2. Retraining. He shared his expectations regarding programs to help veterans choose a new vocation and obtain primary or necessary higher education for self-realization and employment.

  3. Veteran entrepreneurship. Promoting the development of veterans' businesses was naturally mentioned as necessary. Unfortunately, support for veterans' businesses was not addressed during this meeting so that it will be a priority issue for the next meeting.

  4. Programmes to provide housing for veterans.

  5. Digitalisation. Creation of personal accounts for veterans and family members of fallen defenders, where they can receive all public services through a "single window" of services.

  6. Perpetuating the memory of fallen heroes and creating a national military memorial cemetery similar to Arlington.

Ms Oksana Syvak drew the attention of her American colleagues to the fact that since 2015, she has been trying to implement reforms in the system of physical rehabilitation and health support for veterans. She drew attention to the issue of preventing despair and suicide among veterans, referring to global statistics that show the need for special attention to this issue within a year after the end of military service. Ms Oksana asked how the US Department of Veterans Affairs addresses this issue. John Boerstler shared the US experience in conducting needs screenings and supporting veterans during this critical period, noting that comprehensive assistance is provided. The main focus is not on contact with the veteran after returning to civilian life but on cooperation with the Department of Defence before discharge from service - 360 days if this discharge is planned by the person and preparing the soldier for adaptation so that he knows his options before the end of the contract.

The meeting discussed methods of support and rehabilitation for veterans, including physical and mental health, employment, and social integration. It was noted that the Department of Veterans Affairs cooperates with various non-governmental and governmental organizations, including the US Department of Defence and local unions and veterans' associations, to provide comprehensive support to veterans. Deputy Minister Maksym Kushnir invited his American counterparts to contribute to improving Ukraine's strategy for transitioning military personnel to civilian life. The American colleagues gladly agreed to provide expert advice and assistance in expanding the strategy.

Summing up the meeting, Marta Pyvovarenko suggested that further cooperation could be made more effective by dividing the team's work into specialised groups. "This will allow for a more efficient and deeper dive into the topics, with each working group focusing on its priority topics and the issues of the Ministry's relevant deputies. It is already evident that each deputy is interested in close and detailed discussions with colleagues in their area of expertise," said Marta.

Also, see the publication on the website of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine -

The photos were taken by Dmitriy Martiuchkov.

Svit One - tools for business Made in Svit