U.S. Air Force veteran Pamela Rodriguez was searching for some help with her 20-year-old autistic grandson when she walked into the Envision Success event Saturday afternoon.

Rodriguez and her husband, who also served in the U.S. Air Force, have been raising their disabled grandson since he was 2-years-old. Now, they need some relief.

"I may have found someone who helps veterans with these types of family situations," she said. "We just need someone to come in so we can get a break periodically. If we're lucky, this will work out. They've given us some ideas."

Rodriguez and her husband have lived on the outskirts of Norman the past 20 years.

Envision Success for Veterans is a program that has offices at 1151 E. Main Street in Norman. The purpose of Saturday's event was to bring awareness to veterans about the services offered by Envision Success and other vendors who were present with booths and information.

The services at Envision Success include continuing education, career counseling and assistance resources, training opportunities, GED and professional testing and activity nights. Envision Success also offers a Women's Warrior Room for women who need privacy to talk about their life problems.

In addition, an open Veterans Room is available for any veteran who wants to talk privately or maybe enjoy a cup of coffee with other vets who are there.

"This was a way for many veterans to talk to vendors and learn what services are out there for them," said Gail Wilcox, executive director of Envision Success.

Representatives at Envision Success are trained to help veterans with their VA benefits and to find services that match their life needs.

"There are all kinds that VA has and we want to help them [veterans] make that connection," Wilcox said. "We want to connect them with the services at the VA hospital in Oklahoma City."

For some veterans, that might mean using a licensed caregiver who comes into the home several times a week. The company that sends the caregiver must be from a VA-approved list. Some veterans also are entitled to 30 six-hour visits per year from respite care workers.

Wilcox said her husband, who is a veteran, has a caregiver who comes into the home four days a week while she works at Envision Success. The caregiver prepares lunch, washes clothes and cleans bathrooms.

Lisa Mussett, a women veterans program director for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, understands the physical and emotional issues disabled veterans experience. She served in the U.S. Air Force from 1989 to 1992 and has a service-connected disability.

According to Mussett, there are 30,000 female veterans in Oklahoma, which comprises 10% of the total veteran population in the state.

"I come in and meet with women and help them understand the benefits they're entitled to," she said. "For a woman vet, a lot of women are less likely to identify as a veteran."

That's why the Women's Warrior Room at Envision Success is so important.

"It gives them privacy and allows to share more about what they need," Mussett said. "We take a holistic approach to helping veterans with issues like homelessness, domestic violence, raising children and then we connect them with the right resources."

Mussett has been working across Oklahoma since 2011 and she finds many veterans still don't know where to start to gain their VA benefits.

"Sometimes, it's just lack of information and other times it's they don't have the [military] records that are required. It can be a burden for some," she said.

Mussett works with all levels of veterans, whether active duty or retired. She said that includes vets who served or have served in the Oklahoma National Guard and the military reserve units.

For more information about Envision Success and its services, call 701-2015 or visit www.EnvisionSuccessOK.org.

Tim Farley366-3539tfarley@normantranscript.com

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