UNITE US connects veterans online

By Melissa Renahan on July 11, 2014

There are two types of connections that UNITE US, an emerging technology platform aimed at enabling the military community, is focused on: peer to peer and peer to organization.

"We wanted to create something that helped connect the dots - to connect the demand side with the supply side," explained UNITE US co-founder Taylor Justice.

Justice, who graduated from West Point in 2006 and served for a few years before being medically retired, created Unite US with two other veterans, Dan Brillman and Kareem Elsirafy, as well as a civilian partner, Andrew Price.

The four men began work in 2012 and after raising seed money, cultivating relationships and building their virtual platform, UNITE US went live in November 2013.

According to the U.S. Veterans Affairs agency, there are an estimated 22 million veterans in the country and that number expands dramatically when you include the over 34 million dependents also tied to the military. Even though there are approximately 400,000 veteran service organizations and resources dedicated to helping military and military families the two sides often have difficulty connecting.

"When I was transitioning out, I needed to find employment, find out if I was eligible for education benefits, find a house, etc. These searches and items were all independent of each other, which made it more complicated," Justice said. "We want to step in and help bridge that disconnect between the veterans and the services that are out there."

Users can search through a number of major categories and filter out what they don't need and the interactive mapping platform allows them to sift through the results relative to where they are located. In other words, UNITE US can facilitate connections at the local level using the criteria that is applicable to the person in need.

Since going live, UNITE US has made significant progress and according to Justice, networks of service providers are popping up across the country. In the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area, they are poised to start working with both Rally Point/6 and the King County Veterans Program, and are eager to connect with more resources in the area.

"If groups which are engaged in veteran issues use the UNITE US tool, it can help to reach more people but also serve as a best practices model for these organizations," he stated.

The organizations getting on board with UNITE US represent every aspect of military life, from healthcare to education to transitioning out, and include groups geared specifically to spouses, kids and those still on active duty.

"It can be as simple as wanting to connect with other active-duty personnel or just to have a frame of reference for when you get out," Justice said. "We see far too often that these servicemembers are unprepared for their next move once they are no longer serving and we're hopeful that thus can help them start early as possible to find out what will come next."

UNITE US also provides a case coordination facet to ensure that veterans are not falling through the cracks and is entering into a partnership with the Dept. of Veteran Affairs which will kick off in July and be focused on a few specific areas to help the VA operate more efficiently.

"The people we are working with (at the VA) are amazing and they are really trying to strategically work to improve what they do within this community," Justice said.

While users are self-identifying themselves and stating where they need help, UNITE US employs a privacy policy similar to social media sites and does not sell its members' information. Furthermore, the entire system is free to individuals and, at least for now, the community management software services are also offered at no cost.

"There are a ton of blogs and resources out there but we want to augment what they're already doing and help them to connect with even more individuals under the UNITE US umbrella," Justice concluded. "Our ultimate goal is to be the digital backbone of the military veteran resource community."

To learn more about UNITE US and the resources available, go to https://uniteus.com and enter your location and what you are searching for ... it's just that easy.