The Southern Illinois University System hosted its inaugural Veteran’s Summit in September 2019 to address the unique challenges veterans face accessing healthcare, legal assistance and educational opportunities. Its objective was to strengthen the rural healthcare infrastructure, legal support structure and the educational delivery system through the creation of strategic partnerships, as well as improved collaboration and communication among partners including veteran serving organizations, governmental agencies, and elected officials.

The summit was a two-day event held at the Mt. Vernon Armory. The Veteran’s Summit Symposium, hosted on the first day brought speakers, community-based organizations, governmental agencies, elected officials and other stakeholders together to begin developing a blue print to improve service delivery to the Southern Illinois veteran community. The Veteran’s Summit Resource Connection Fair on day two was open to all veterans with SIU System and veteran-serving organizations providing educational, medical, dental and legal appointments/referrals for veterans and their families free of charge.

Following the success of the original summit and with additional backing from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, organizers intended to follow-up on the event in the fall of 2020. Unfortunately, with the spread of COVID-19, it was delayed one year. Still in the grips of the global pandemic and in order to protect the health of attendees, the 2021 summit was held virtually. During “Summit II”, an invitation-only group of 24 stakeholders from different sectors working with veterans (healthcare, academicians, organizational and community leaders, lawyers, and public officials) were asked to revisit the original access issues through the lens of COVID-19 to develop policy recommendations in the new COVID-reality.

The Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Department of Population Science and Policy, the Southern Illinois University School of Law and the Southern Illinois University System shared results from the summit (Summit II) in May 2022. While the report is a continuation of the first summit’s work focusing on the same key “access” issues important to veterans: health care, education and justice, the complete pervasive effects of COVID-19 on the certain sections of our population, in this case veterans, is yet to be fully understood which is why the Summit II report is an important resource to use for the foundation of that study.

SIU System partners from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, School of Law and the School of Medicine hosting this event included:

SIU Carbondale
Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development
Conference and Scheduling Services
Extended Campus
School of Law
Veterans Services

SIU Edwardsville
Veterans Services
School Pharmacy and the School of Dentistry

SIU School of Medicine
Office of Community Initiatives and Complex Care
Population Science and Policy