News & Events

Interested in learning more about veterans issues?

Veteran issues can be complex and difficult to understand. Our staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, have a deep understanding of the issues facing veterans. We have staff available for speaking engagements, broadcast interviews, community education opportunities, and publish editorials.

In our dual role as a service provider and advocate, we have a long track record of success helping veterans to lead stable and healthy lives. Swords to Plowshares is recognized for our expert leadership and continued dedication to improving the systems of care that our veterans rely on.

Please direct all media inquiries to our Communications team at [email protected] or (415) 655-7255.

Policy Priorities


Protecting Veteran Healthcare

Privatization undermines comprehensive veteran-centric mental and physical healthcare

Quality of VA healthcare remains unique and unrivaled. Independent assessments show that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides high-quality services and a majority of veterans confirm this as satisfaction with its care surpasses its private counterparts. Improvements to healthcare delivery can still be made but the answer is not to funnel resources from the VA integrated care system to private providers unless veterans cannot access services in their local region. This led Executive Director Michael Blecker to dissent from the final report from the Commission on Care that evaluated and proposed recommendations on the VA healthcare system.

We aim to protect veteran healthcare through advocacy and by building constituencies.

Policy Advocacy

  • We monitor and advocate for congressional legislation and committee discussions that support the VA and other systems of care that support veterans.
  • We track the implementation of new veterans’ healthcare policies and VA regulations intended to support veterans’ health.

Building Constituencies

  • We meet regularly with local service providers and the VA to share information and discuss service delivery issues we collectively encounter.
  • We continue to build constituencies at the local, state, and national levels to expand resources and strengthen the systems of care that support veterans.
  • We provide community education and a dialogue on the veterans’ “right to care” through summits, webinars and other public education efforts.

Combating Veteran Homelessness

Address threats to VA homelessness programs and services

The VA’s pledge to end veteran homelessness has shown success in curbing homelessness, but many vulnerable veterans are still on the streets or losing housing, and becoming homeless. Specialized VA programs, including HUD/VASH, Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF) serve hundreds of thousands of homeless and at-risk veterans each year. These programs have cut veteran homeless numbers almost in half. Federal funding for VA and Department of Housing and Urban Development face an uncertain future, threatening the viability of these success programs.

We seek to preserve and expand VA homelessness programs and services.

  • We monitor proposals and congressional legislation related to these programs and press legislators to maintain their commitment to veterans.
  • We work with community partners in San Francisco and Alameda counties to address homelessness in the continuum of care framework through coordinated entry.
  • We continue to build constituencies at the local, state, and national levels to amplify our voice and speak to policymakers as a unified front on this issue of veteran homelessness.
Bad Paper

More Access to VA Resources for Veterans with Bad Paper

The VA broadly disqualifies veterans who should be eligible for services

The VA does not consider individuals with less than honorable discharges (aka “Bad Paper”) as veterans, therefore excluding them from VA programs and services. Congress never intended for veteran status to be so exclusive, rather than exclude those with dishonorable discharges. Only 1% of service members discharged are barred from VA services due to Congress’ criteria, however, VA regulations have caused an exclusion of an additional 5.5% of all service members. Alarming statistics about veterans with bad paper discharges show they are more likely to have a mental health condition, more likely to experience homelessness, and are at greater risk of suicide, yet most of these vulnerable veterans with bad paper are denied by the VA.

We advocate for a more inclusive definition to appropriately serve more veterans

  • We have taken legal action by submitting a Rulemaking Petition to the VA, asking it to revise its regulations to more accurately reflect congressional intent to only exclude those who have served “dishonorably.”
  • We monitor and press for congressional legislation and committee discussions for more inclusive access to VA programs and services for all veterans.
  • We track implementation of new VA regulations intended to support programs and services for veterans with less than honorable discharges.
Benefits Claims

Improving the Appeals Process for Veterans in Benefits Claims

Errors and delays cause irreparable harm to disabled veterans

Claims for benefits have been plagued by delays and often denied, leading to appeals. VA acknowledges that it takes an average of six years to resolve an appeal, with 470,000 appeals pending as of 2017.  Most appeals are ultimately decided in favor of the veteran, whereas many denials often stem from the Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) errors. Veterans are limbo for years as their health and living situation may face serious decline.

We insist on appeals modernization to streamline the process

  • We track the implementation of the VA Appeals Modernization Act against the backlog of claims.
  • We hold Congress and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) accountable to make their mandated improvements.
  • We take legal action as part of class action lawsuits to correct errors and problems in disability compensation claims.
Aging Veterans

Ensuring Resources for Senior Veterans

Aging veterans have elevated needs and failure to address those could put them in crisis

Aging veterans are at heightened risk for homelessness, depression and suicide, and face early onset of dementia, cancers, and heart disease resulting from service-connected injuries and illness.  Many geriatric services lack veteran-informed care and operate under the dangerous misconception that all veterans get care from the VA and in fact, most do not receive care through the VA. Additionally, most systems of care that support seniors do not capture or track veteran status, potentially putting veterans’ health at-risk for conditions which are regularly screened by VA and other providers who are familiar with military culture.

We advocate for expanded and veteran-informed services for aging veterans

  • We engage community partners to share information and discuss solutions to provide more effective services factoring needs of both veterans and aging individuals.
  • We advocate for the expansion of resources for veterans at local, state, and national levels.
  • We provide community education through webinars, forums, and other public education efforts.
Student Veterans

Best Practices for Veterans who are Pursuing Education

Many veterans and military-connected students use the GI Bill and VA education bills to pursue higher education

College communities need to focus on data tracking, monitoring, cultural competency, formal and informal campus supports, and effective outreach strategies to genuinely support veterans and military-connected students on their campuses.

Developing and advocating for best practices for veterans in education

  • We continue our research on California colleges to provide guides for prospective and current student veterans for better outcomes on campus.
  • We advocate for formalized best practices to support veterans and military-connected students in higher education.
  • We build constituencies with allies at local, state, and national levels to strengthen resources for campuses and seek to establish best practices at higher education institutions.
  • We provide training for higher education professionals to better serve veterans on campus.
Economic Vitality

Expanding Economic and Career Opportunities for Veterans

Cultivating employment opportunities for veterans

For those newly separated from the military, economic stability and employment support are key to a successful transition to civilian life. Many employers have sought support in hiring veterans at their workplace, however, most have reported difficulty in translating this support to effective hiring and retention practices.

Developing and advocating for best practices for veteran employment hiring and retention

  • We continue our research on veteran employment and underemployment
  • We advocate for formalized best practices and provide training to higher professionals to support veterans hiring and retention
  • We build constituencies with allies at local, state, and national levels to strengthen employment resources for veterans and seek to build our meaningful career pathways for veterans.

Media coverage

Coming to Mission Bay: New Homes for Unhoused Veterans and Low-Income Families
March 5, 2018

Mission Bay affordable housing honors Mayor Ed Lee
March 2, 2018

New housing for homeless veterans to be named after former Mayor Ed Lee
March 1, 2018

New homes for unhoused veterans and low-income families comes to Mission Bay
March 1, 2018

The Trump Administration Goes to War — With Itself — Over the VA
February 16, 2018

Boies Schiller Flexner Files Amicus Brief Addressing Delays in Veterans’ Benefits
February 8, 2018

New VA memo nixes plan two shift $ 460 million earmarked for veteran homelessness
February 8, 2018

Veteran Inmates Get A Final Chance At Redemption
January 31, 2018

Fresh Fight Looms About Aid to Homeless Veterans
January 1, 2018

VA kills plan to cut homeless vet program after outcry
December 12, 2017

After Backlash, VA Won’t Scrap Program to House Homeless Veterans
December 7, 2017

HUD reports 1st increase in homeless veterans since 2010
December 7, 2017

VA tried to reallocate $460 million earmarked for homeless veterans. Now it says that won’t happen.
December 6, 2017

Thousands of veterans could still bear scars of Army’s Cold War bio-chemical tests
November 29, 2017

Veterans were ‘Guinea pigs’ in Army’s chemical experiments. Now they need answers.
November 28, 2017

First VetsAid Concert Provides $360,000 in Grants
November 14, 2017

Renovated SoMa Hotel To House 70 Veterans
November 10, 2017

Battle Over Veterans’ Health Care Comes Down to VA Choice
November 8, 2017

These Bay Area Projects Are Providing Vets with Affordable Housing, Social Services
November 10, 2017

Army to give medical care to vets involved in chemical, biological testing
November 8, 2017

$80M Affordable Development Ready to Rise in Mission Bay
November 2, 2017

Seth Neulight’s Shining Moment for a Disabled Veteran
October 25, 2017

Why Labor Is Fighting to Save Veterans’ Healthcare
October 12, 2017

Experts: Veterans should ‘get out in the streets’ to protest government’s handling of ‘bad paper’
September 15, 2017

Honoring the Veterans Most in Need: Swords to Plowshares and Oakland Vet Center Create First of Its Kind Medical-Legal Partnership
July 2017

To Curb Suicides, VA Opens Services To Those With Less Than Honorable Discharges
July 4, 2017

As the VA starts mental health care for ‘bad paper’ veterans, critics say it’s not enough
June 27, 2017

V.A.’s Exclusion of Vets
May 28, 2017

Stand Up: Oakland A’s pitcher Sean Doolittle’s quest to properly help veterans with “bad paper”
May 25, 2017

WVU Fellowship Winner Aims To Help Veterans Access Benefits
May 8, 2017

Programmed to Survive
May 2, 2017

Pelosi Remarks at Veterans Health Care Action Campaign Forum (video)
April 13, 2017

VA Plans to Help ‘Bad Paper’ Veterans Don’t Go Far Enough
March 15, 2017

“Make the VA Great Again”: Medical-Legal Partnerships for Veterans
Republished with permission from Harvard Law and Policy Review, article dated February 13, 2017

Why Trump’s Hiring Freeze Could Hurt Veterans
February 2017

Share the Spirit: How donors made a difference this holiday season for East Bay residents in need
January 23, 2017

4 biggest issues facing next Veterans Affairs secretary
January 2, 2017

Sharing the streets of San Francisco, from near and far
December 19, 2016

San Francisco looks for ways to fund supportive housing for homeless
December 18, 2016

The Many Small Victories of the #Fairness4Vets Coalition in 2016
December 16, 2016

ABC7’S Beyond the Headlines with Cheryl Jennings: Veterans in the Bay Area 
December 13, 2016

Homeless vet slept under Oakland overpass, now in his own studio
November 30, 2016

Parades for our veterans are nice — jobs are better: Why former servicewomen in particular face so many employment hurdles
November 11, 2016

SF Needs More Landlords to Rent to Homeless Veterans
November 10, 2016

Michael Blecker Talks Help for Veterans on KTVU News
November 7, 2016

Attorney Training Helps Veterans Who Are Suffering
October 2016

PlaceMakers: Michael Blecker Discusses the Veterans Academy in the Presidio
October 26, 2016

Legion testimony addresses Commission on Care recommendations
September 15, 2016

Lawmakers urge defense bill to help less-than-honorable discharges
September 13, 2016

‘Choice,’ privatization will dismantle VA’s system of care
July 15, 2016

Swords to Plowshares on KPIX’s “Bay Area Focus”
July 14, 2016

It’s time to get real about San Francisco’s homeless problem
June 29, 2016

Underserved Veterans
April 12, 2016

Benefits being denied to veterans
March 31, 2016

VA Is Denying Benefits To Vets With Bad Paper Discharges At Unprecedented Rates, Report Finds
March 30, 2016

Report Finds Sharp Increase in Veterans Denied V.A. Benefits
March 30, 2016

The push to restore health benefits to thousands of veterans
March 30, 2016

VA is Denying Benefits to Vets with Bad Paper Discharges at Unprecedented Rates 
March 30, 2016

Grappling with homelessness, BART station by BART station
March 24, 2016

Veteran Suicides: What Might Have Saved Them?
February 5, 2016

Press Releases

Mission Bay Affordable Housing Development for Veterans Breaks Ground in San Francisco
March 2, 2018

Mayor Farrell, Supervisor Jane Kim and community leaders break ground on 100 percent affordable housing site for homeless veterans and low-income families
March 1, 2018

Swords to Plowshares and Chinatown Community Development Center Celebrate Groundbreaking of Mission Bay Supportive Housing
March 1, 2018

Swords to Plowshares’ 21st Annual Veterans Day Dinner Honoring Local Veterans
November 9, 2017

Seth Neulight Named Bill Brockett Pro Bono Attorney of the Year
September 12, 2017

Bob Woodruff Foundation Awards Swords to Plowshares Grant to Aid Veterans with Bad Paper Discharges
June 22, 2017

Swords to Plowshares Hosts Summer Solstice Symphony Concert
June 20, 2017

Assemblymember Phil Ting Honors Swords to Plowshares’ Shannon Kissinger
June 20, 2017

Woodruff Foundation Awards 3.3 Million in Grants for Veterans Services
May 21, 2017

Pathway for Veterans into the Biotech Industry
May 9, 2017

Swords to Plowshares Presents the 9th Annual SHOUT! For Women Veteran Artists Exhibition
March 14, 2017

Swords to Plowshares Receives $25,000 Grant from Wells Fargo for Supportive-services for Aging Veterans
March 1, 2017

Swords to Plowshares Supporters Raise Over $460,000 for Bay Area Veterans
November 11, 2016

Swords to Plowshares Hosts Training Conference for Dual-State Veteran Employment Collaborative
October 21, 2016

Swords to Plowshares Hosts Veteran Employment Strategy Summit
September 29, 2016

Emily Aldridge Named Bill Brockett Pro Bono Attorney of the Year for Her Service to Veterans
September 23, 2016

Swords Announces Veteran Employment Collaborative Grantees
July 13, 2016

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