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Service on four wheels

Tacoma Vet Center ready to help

The Mobile Vet Center offers full service to veterans in remote areas. Photo credit: Tacoma Vet Center

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The Tacoma Vet Center has served veterans and families in the region for more than 25 years, and it now has the ability to amplify that service.

Known as a Mobile Vet Center (MVC), it is a 38-foot vehicle loaded with trained staff, technology and information that allows the center to serve remote, rural communities and underserved veteran populations.

In 2017, the center served more than 2,500 clients.

"The MVCs rolled out, nationwide, in 2009 and have been an integral part of the Vet Center's Outreach Program," wrote Robert Hersey, the Tacoma Center's outreach and education coordinator, in an email. "The Vet Center nationwide maintains a fleet of 80 MVCs that are designed to extend the reach of services through focused outreach, direct service provision and referral services for communities that may not meet the requirements for a ‘brick and mortar' Vet Center."

Like the grounded centers, the MVCs provide a wide range of services from addressing basic needs, unemployment, benefits and education opportunities to providing psychological, PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse and sexual trauma counseling.

"We strive to meet our clients when and where it's convenient for them," Hersey added.

The MVCs are state-of-the-art.

Self-contained, they are equipped with a generator, two confidential counseling suites and a complete and secure telecommunications package.

"All of this ensures that counselors and outreach personnel have real-time access to the veteran's Veteran Administration (VA) records on a secure system," continued Hersey. "MVCs are offices on wheels, and we can do everything a traditional Vet Center does, we just do it in very isolated and remote locations."

The vehicles travel to pre- and post-deployment sites to ensure that Reserve and active-duty servicemembers are aware of the problems they may encounter while overseas and when they return home.

MVCs also show up at veterans' resource events and stand-downs, assist veterans on college campuses, provide briefings to transitioning servicemembers and are critical in reaching veterans who may go unnoticed.

"They are indispensable," continued Hersey. "Without them, many veterans, servicemembers and their families may never hear about the essential services we provide.  We are the face of the Vet Center in the community."

The vehicles also serve as part of the VA's emergency response program and have the ability to provide emergency support during emergencies and natural disasters.

Although new to his duties, Hersey exudes a clear sense of commitment.

"The best part of my job is when I reach a suffering vet and help him or her turn it around by accessing all their benefits," he explained. "I really focus my time and energy on reaching veterans who are underserved or reluctant to seek VA assistance."

The Tacoma Vet Center is located at 4916 Center St., Suite E, in Tacoma.

The MVC visits Yelm on the second and last Wednesday of every month; it visits Port Orchard on the second and fourth Thursday of every month.

For more information about the center, visit

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