Veteran advocates for military service members, benefits
Stephanie Zarb had served in the U.S. Air Force for five years when her military career came to an abrupt end due to a medical emergency. Suddenly, she was in need of a new job at the end of the Great Recession. Not only did she struggle to find one, but she had a hard time readjusting to life outside of military service, she said. Her experience inspired her to help other veterans make the same transition and equip them with the know-how to access their benefits.
“I was given the amazing opportunity to manage a state-wide non-profit utilizing veteran volunteers to do just that: help other veterans access their benefits and improve their quality of life.”
That state-wide nonprofit was the University of Michigan Depression Center’s Military Support Programs and Networks’ (M-SPAN) Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran Program, which paired Michigan veterans with other vets and assisted more than 6,000 service members in addressing mental health issues, unemployment and homelessness for more than ten years.
The experience offered Zarb a front-row seat to the unique hurdles veterans must often leap to live normal civilian lives.
“I could not comprehend why the policies that governed our systems of care were so woefully inadequate,” she said.
To deepen her understanding, she went back to school and enrolled in Wayne State University’s Ph.D. in political science program.
Already, thanks to her studies, she can see “how we got here,” she said. This knowledge allows her to more effectively advocate for change.
“I was able to provide evidence-informed, data-driven policy solutions to big problems here in Michigan. I was also able to convince several news media outlets to run stories related to Michigan veterans and keep focus on this issue. While this has led to several small steps in the right direction, there is still a great deal of work to be done.”