You can see the love and heart Suzi Vinci pours into her mission to serve Placer County’s veterans and their families just by looking at the wall of photographs in her office.
“I still keep in touch with many of my clients to this day, even after their casework is closed,” says Vinci, director of the county’s Veterans Service Office in Rocklin. “When you walk into my office, you are so much more than a file to me. Everyone who walks in is automatically my family.”
There are 28,155 veterans in Placer County and only four full-time employees on Vinci’s staff. But that doesn’t stop the commitment to their mission. In October alone the office served over 1,000 veterans. These services range from assistance with filing compensation claims, tuition waivers, authorizing veteran status, and even help with pension information for family members.
While Vinci started with Placer County just a few years ago, she has a long history of military service. She initially joined the Navy Reserve but was soon called to active duty as a full-time recruiter. “I was recruiting for the reserve program, the program I personally went through, so I truly was promoting the experience from the heart, because I was a product of that incredible experience,” said Vinci.The passion and attention Vinci gave her recruits was inspired by her own experience during her time in the reserves. Vinci departed from active duty as one of the top recruiters in the nation.
Vinci’s passion to serve followed her into civilian life. Outside of her regular job, she found herself helping fellow veteran co-workers apply for their education benefits. That’s when she realized, she said, that her work helping others who have served was not finished.
Vinci’s sister, who was working at AMVETS at the time, pointed out her obvious passion and aptitude for helping veterans connect to the resources available to them. Vinci soon started her civilian career serving veterans in 2007, when she decided to join her sister at AMVETS. “It comes very naturally,” Vinci said. “It’s incredibly rewarding to work with veterans from every walk of life. Whether it be someone who is homeless or newly-retired officers, I know it is my calling to help those who have served our country.”
Vinci came to Placer County in 2014 and has been a powerhouse in the local veterans community ever since. She’s even picked up the nickname “The Fixer” from those who have worked with her. The stories are endless for this one-stop-shop for veteran services. In her Rocklin office, Vinci takes a moment to look back at the success stories that drive her every day. She remembers the woman who is no longer living in her car; an individual who is now clean and sober; and the family reunited when the father, who is a veteran, chose to leave the streets to start a new life. Everyone on Vinci’s team has similar stories to share that motivate the service they provide every day.
The Placer County Veterans Service Office takes an experience that can be overwhelming for veterans - understanding and accessing the many available benefits and resources their service has earned them - and makes it accessible. This is made possible by the office’s customer service approach of being all things veteran services. Even if they don’t directly provide a needed service, they will personally connect veterans to where the service is provided.
“My message to veterans is you never know unless you try it,” Vinci said. “I have seen countless stories of individuals being connected to resources they didn’t even think were available. Our team goes the extra 115 percent to ensure that every opportunity is considered. I treat my clients with the level of service that I would want my own brother to receive. Once you walk through our doors, you are family.”
To learn more about the Placer County Veterans Service Office visit their website at placer.ca.gov/veterans or call 916-780-3290.