The Heart Behind VA Fisher Houses
Fisher Houses require the close cooperation of lots of valuable national and community partners to provide high quality service to families and to ensure they receive the best care. A good example is Jennifer Koget, Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Fisher House and Family Hospitality Program Manager.
Jennifer is both a skilled clinical social worker and vital liaison who has been with VA for 11 years. She fell in love with serving Veterans when she did her social work internship at the Butler VA hospital outside of Pittsburgh, Penn., her hometown. She quickly discovered it was important to pay attention not only to what Veterans had sacrificed, but also to the unique but still difficult sacrifices of their families.
“Being the VA program manager for Fisher House is a phenomenal opportunity I could only have dreamed of as a young intern,” said Jennifer. “I believe in my heart that we should give however we can in life. For me, personally and professionally, it’s providing support to Veterans and their families in their time of need.”
Jennifer’s job has its challenges. The biggest might be navigating the VA system to get the houses built in a timely manner. VA currently has 26 houses with plans to expand to at least 44. Coordinating those efforts with the medical centers, with Fisher House Foundation and with VA Program Offices takes patience and finesse.
“Once we get the homes built, however, we have a great infrastructure to support them. We have phenomenal managers and a huge pool of volunteers,” said Jennifer. “Fact is, I believe Fisher House Foundation is the gold standard for public-private partnerships.”
Jennifer also talked about two other aspects of the Fisher House programs that don’t often come to mind. First, the programs are overarching; international. “The Foundation literally has a global impact on people’s lives,” she said.
And second, local groups who wanted to be part of the effort to build a Fisher House, get hooked on serving Veterans. After the homes are built they stay on and volunteer to support Veterans receiving services through other VA programs areas where help is needed.
“I know what I do is important. I have heard and seen traumatized families whose lives were positively impacted by their stays at Fisher Houses,” emphasized Jennifer. “Regardless of the outcome, because not all families have positive outcomes, Fisher Houses play a positive role in healing these families every day. I’m so proud to be part of that.”