WASHINGTON – A “peer-to-peer” specialty consultation service that began June 15 offered by Military OneSource is the newest resource to support and connect service members and their families with professionals who understand the military life, a Defense Department personnel and readiness official said.
In an interview with DoD News, Air Force Lt. Col. Tammy S. Hinskton, director of the non-medical counseling office in personnel and readiness, said peer consultants are or have been connected to the military and have a minimum of a master’s degree.
The military’s unique life, in which deployments, relocations and transitions are a commonplace, makes it essential to find consultants with similar life experiences, she said.
“Service members and their spouses want to talk with others who are military and understand them,” Hinskton said.
Peer Consultants are now accessible at 800-342-9647, she said, adding that MilitaryOneSource.mil will consider adding different methods of delivery as the program grows.
“We anticipate the service will get better and bigger, and we will add to it as we learn new things and continue to improve it,” Hinskton said.
The consultants are military retirees, reservists, Guardsmen, spouses and separating service members, all of whom have trained in best-support practices at the Defense Centers of Excellence, she said.
Available for calls at three centers around the United States, consultants are ready for discussions that could range from an urgent need to just a friendly chat, Hinskton said.
Working around the clock, callers never get an answering service. “You’ll talk to a live person every time you call,” she said.
And because Military OneSource offers a wide and growing array of resources, consultants can connect callers to the information outlets they might need. “We can provide help in other areas callers didn’t know was available to them,” Hinskton noted.
Active-duty service members, Guardsmen, reservists –regardless of activation status — and family members are eligible to call the service, she said.
Veterans who have been separated from military service for up to 180 days also are eligible, Hinskton said. If a veteran calls after the 180-day cutoff, “we will give them a warm handoff to [the Department of Veterans Affairs] and connect them to the support they require there,” she said.
“Although we’re not a crisis line, if someone calls in crisis, safety is our number one priority. We will never turn away a person in crisis, but will use all the resources at our disposal to ensure callers get the help they need,” said Hinskton.
Strong Service Members Essential to DoD
DoD officials believe the peer consultation service is important because anything that makes a military member stronger, more resilient and ready makes a person able to successfully accomplish the DoD mission, Hinskton said.
“When you have stressors going on that occupy your mind, the consultants will address some of those issues and make referrals [to] further help you deal with them and be able to focus on your mission, which is DoD success,” Hinskton said.
The peer consultant’s goal is to help military people deal with stress, “before the stressors get out of control,” she said. “It’s preventive maintenance for your mental health.”