Steve Benz is an Air Force veteran, having served from 1985 to 1991. He is currently an attorney at Novo Nordisk, Inc. Benz has served on the Board of Helping Veterans and Families (HVAF) in Indianapolis for almost 20 years, where he was the Board Chair for six years. HVAF houses over 200 formerly homeless veterans and administers grants and other programs to prevent hundreds of others from becoming homeless. He has been on the NCHV Board for seven years.
Janet StringfellowVice Chair
Volunteers of America – Florida, St. Petersburg, FL
Janet M. Stringfellow received a Bachelor of Arts in Public Communication from the University of Puerto Rico in 1992 and a Master of Rehabilitation Counseling in 1996. She is one of the two authors of the thesis “Knowledge that the law students of the University of Puerto Rico demonstrate about the Americans with Disabilities Act and their attitudes toward individuals with disabilities.” Also, in 1997, she received her license as a rehabilitation counselor. In 2002, she was recognized as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) in the United States. In 2008, she completed the Volunteers of America of Florida executive development track, and the Volunteers of America’s Executive Development Program in 2011. In June of 2012, she became an ordained minister for Volunteers of America. Stringfellow is currently serving as a board member for Leading Age Florida as a Leading Age Education Committee Board Chair, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, and Volunteers of America Inc. Church Governing and National Board. Stringfellow has served with Volunteers of America of Florida since 1998, and is extremely honored to build on VOA’s 122 years of service, and she proudly upholds the distinction of being the first Hispanic President/CEO of a Volunteers of America affiliate.
Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, Spokane, WA
Cathrene “Cat” Nichols, a U.S. Army veteran, currently serves as Strategic Operations Manager for Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, specializing in regional strategic and multijurisdictional partnerships. She serves as the Director of the Regional Veterans Service Center in Spokane, WA, and has been a member of the NCHV Board of Directors since 2018.
Patrick E. Ryan has a unique blend of experience in the Executive and Legislative branch and for the last 14 years as a trusted consultant on a wide array of issues affecting the delivery of services to veterans. Prior to becoming a consultant, he served for 21 years as the counsel to the Chair and Members of the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs, including serving as the Committee Staff Director and Chief Counsel from 2001 to 2004. Before going to work on Capitol Hill, Ryan worked at VA as a staff attorney in the Office of General Counsel, as a budget analyst in the Office of Management, and as a benefits counselor for the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Washington Regional Office. He has a broad knowledge of VA laws and the budget process, and has worked extensively with stakeholders to gain acceptance of a number of important changes to the laws and processes governing the delivery of benefits and services to our nation’s veterans. Ryan earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, and his undergraduate degree in government and politics was awarded by the University of Maryland.
Wendy Charece McClinton is a native daughter of New York City, which is where she was reared and received her formal education. She is a decorated 10-year U.S. Army veteran who served during the Desert Storm Persian Gulf Era. As an administrator, her leadership and management skills gave way to her prolific role as President/CEO of Black Veterans for Social Justice, Inc., a community-based organization that has served ALL veterans, their families, and the community in New York City for the past 39 years.
Retired, Deputy Secretary U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, St. Petersburg, FL
Thomas G. Bowman was nominated by President Trump to serve as the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs and was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 3, 2017.
Before his appointment as Deputy Secretary, Mr. Bowman was the Majority Staff Director of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He has also served Veterans at VA for nearly ten years between 2002 and 2012, including assignment as Chief of Staff to two previous VA secretaries, Jim Nicholson and James Peake.
Mr. Bowman’s other assignments at VA included Deputy Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Acting Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, and Executive Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. For three and a half years, he served as Senior Advisor to the Director of VA’s Sunshine Healthcare Network caring for Veterans in Florida, southeast Georgia, and the Caribbean, which involved him directly in VA’s diverse field operations.
The son of a career Navy chief and enlisted pilot, who was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked, Mr. Bowman was commissioned in the United States Marine Corps through NROTC at the University of Texas in 1969. He served 30 years in the Marine Corps as an infantry and Judge Advocate officer, including 21 years on active duty. He retired as a colonel in October 1999, after serving as Senior Military Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. He worked three years as an attorney in private practice, concentrating on military and Veterans issues, before joining VA.
Mr. Bowman holds a law degree from Western New England College School of Law in Springfield, Mass., and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas at Austin. His wife Joan died of ovarian cancer in 2013, after 41 years of marriage. He has three grown children and seven grandchildren. His younger son and daughter-in-law both serve in the United States Coast Guard. Content Goes Here
Debbie Burkart is a national vice president of supportive housing at National Equity Fund, Inc. (NEF), a leading non-profit syndicator of low-income housing tax credits. Since joining NEF in 1992, she has underwritten supportive housing and affordable assisted living investments for NEF’s funds for a wide range of special needs populations.
During her 27 years with NEF, Burkart has assisted in the acquisition and/or underwriting of more than $1 billion in tax credit equity for special-needs projects including more than 4,000 units of housing for homeless veterans in 15 states. In 2012, she founded and directs LISC-NEF’s Bring Them HOMES, an initiative for homeless veterans, which has raised over $5 million in predevelopment grant funding for veterans supportive housing projects. She’s a nationally recognized expert on affordable seniors housing as well as supportive housing financing and policy, and speaks frequently at conferences. For nearly a decade, she has been a judge for the National Council of State Housing Agencies’ Annual Awards for Program Excellence in the Special Needs category.
In 2008, she became a National Coalition for Homeless Veterans board member and in 2016 joined Corporation for Supportive Housing’s (CSH) national board. She also sits on the boards of Brilliant Corners and LA Family Housing. Burkart received the Corporate Silver Star Award from Volunteers of America Illinois in 2016 and the Community Hero Award from New Directions in 2011 for her work in veterans supportive housing. In 2017, she was profiled by Affordable Housing Finance as one of ten women who have reached the top of the affordable housing industry.
She graduated from Duke University and received master’s degrees in business administration and city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
More than two decades ago, Vincent Perrone became involved in a grassroots effort to build the largest supportive services agency for veterans and their families in New England and was subsequently named Chairman, President & CEO of Veterans Inc. A 501(c)3, CARF accredited nonprofit headquartered in Massachusetts, Veterans Inc. has helped more than 75,000 veterans and their families in need and today operates a national referral service and offices and programs in all six New England states. Born in Worcester, MA, Perrone is a graduate of Norwich University, the oldest private military college in the nation and the birthplace of ROTC, where he was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force. He served in the military for 20 years, retiring as a Lt Colonel. He has a Master of Science Degree in Business Administration from Central Michigan University and holds Level III certification from the Department of Defense in Program Management and Acquisition Logistics disciplines. Following his retirement from the Air Force and before taking his current position at Veterans Inc., Perrone was Director of Global Government Marketing for EMC Corporation, a Fortune 500 company. Perrone and his wife, Debra, have four children, Francesca, Vincent III, Samuel, and Ricky.
Stephen J. Peck, who served as a Marine officer in Vietnam, heads the nation’s largest nonprofit devoted to providing housing and other essential services to at-risk veterans.
United States Veterans Initiative (U.S.VETS), which opened its first facility in Los Angeles in 1993, has grown to 11 sites in five states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 5,000 veterans a day. Yearly, U.S.VETS helps 8,000 veterans find housing and more than 1,500 veterans gain full-time jobs.
Peck says he learned in the Marine Corps, “If you don’t go where the trouble is, you can’t solve the problem.”
As the U.S. continues to send troops to the Middle East, the issues of veteran unemployment, homelessness, Post-Traumatic Stress, and other reintegration issues have reached critical levels. Twenty veterans a day commit suicide in the United States.
“Our job at U.S.VETS is to engage the enemy at home — the enemy of homelessness, disillusionment and disappointment — to let these men and women know there is a path forward,” says Peck. U.S.VETS strives to empower each veteran to take responsibility for his or her success, guiding them towards independence in the community, developing their workforce skills and supporting recovery.
Peck graduated from Northwestern University in 1968 and entered the Marine Corps that same year. In Vietnam, he was a first lieutenant in the 1st Marine Division, serving as a forward observer outside of Danang in 1969, receiving the Navy Commendation Medal
After his service Peck became a documentary filmmaker. Eventually, a series of films on homelessness and veteran’s issues compelled him to change careers. Peck went to work helping the Veterans Administration place homeless veterans into housing and in 1996 joined the organization that became U.S.VETS as Director of Community Development, where he was involved with program design and funding, developing partnerships, and advocating on a State and National level to bring attention to possible solutions for homeless veterans. He was also the inaugural Director of U.S.VETS’ largest site in Long Beach. He was appointed president and CEO in August 2010. Peck earned his Master’s Degree in Social Work from USC in 1997. He is also the President of the California Association of Veteran Service Agencies (CAVSA) a consortium of seven nonprofit veteran service providers working in partnership to address the needs of California’s veterans.
He has been honored by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the USC School of Social Work, Northwestern University, the American Legion Auxiliary, and the City of Long Beach. He was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2012.
Peck and his wife, Kristine Kidd, a food writer and culinary consultant, and the former Food Editor of Bon Appetit magazine, live with their Labrador retriever, Atticus, in the Los Angeles community of Topanga Canyon. He has a grown son, Ethan, an actor; and a grown step-daughter, Marisa, a writer.
Virginia Department of Veterans Affairs, Richmond, VA
Matt Leslie is the Deputy Director of the Virginia Veteran and Family Support program for the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS and assists with housing policy and coordination statewide as well as suicide prevention efforts. Matt currently is serving on the Board of NCHV.
Berdie Cowser has been with the Center for Veterans Issues, Ltd. since May 2001, where she is currently the Vice President of Housing and Development.
The programs she oversees provide supportive permanent and transitional housing to veterans who are motivated to change their homeless condition through honest self-examination and commitment to learning new behaviors.
She began her military career in high school, joining the Army Reserves in 1993. After earning her undergraduate degree from the Alabama State University, Berdie was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and completed her US Army Quartermaster Officer Basic Course in 2000.
She then earned her MBA and Ph.D. from Cardinal Stritch University.
Among her accomplishments and awards, she serves as Board Member, Milwaukee County War Memorial; Chapter Commander, National Association for Black Veterans, Inc.; 40 Under 40 Award Winner, Milwaukee Business Journal; and Milwaukee Times Newspaper 2015 Black Excellence Award Special Honoree – African American Women in the Military.
Berdie is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and the Cream City (WI) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.
Victoria Lee is health care consultant Booz Allen Hamilton. She primarily focuses on health system transformation and process improvement to improve access to health services and patient experience. She previously worked at Deloitte and the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. She received her Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Appalachian State University and a Master’s in Public Health from The George Washington University.
Tramecia Garner, LPCC is the Chief Operating Officer and Housing Director at Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco, California. Prior to this new role, she was the Associate Director for Housing and Residential Programs since 2016. As a member of the executive-level management team, she works alongside the Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer and other senior management staff regarding agency operations, budget, and strategic planning.
She manages many of the agencies direct service programs, provided in Oakland and San Francisco, which include Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), Employment and Training, Grant and Per Diem Service Centers, Outreach and Drop-In case management and mental health services. She provides direct management of the various housing programs to include Health care for Homeless Veterans programs-DeMontfort House and Safe Haven located in San Francisco. She also manages six Permanent Supportive Housing sites for Veterans and their families who were formerly homeless or chronically homeless in San Francisco, California.
In addition to her leadership role within Swords to Plowshares, she is very active with local advocacy and oversight bodies such as the Continuum of Care, Veterans Coordinated Entry Steering Committee and is currently the Co-Chair of the Supportive Housing Providers Network. In 2018, she was selected by National Alliance to End Homelessness to participate in the Trans-Atlantic Practice Exchange. As a result, she traveled to London, England, to learn about Veteran homelessness and shared her perspective and experience with providers in the United Kingdom. Ms. Garner obtained a master’s degree in Professional Counseling and bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Georgia State University. She is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in the State of California.
Mr. Bridwell has 21 years of experience working with homeless individuals. He has dedicated the past 17 years to specifically assisting homeless veterans to successfully reintegrate back into their communities. Mr. Bridwell is currently the Director of National Operations for Cloudbreak Communities, a special needs housing developer for homeless veterans that has developed over 3,000 units of housing for veterans. Previously, he was employed as Arizona’s first Homeless Veterans Services Coordinator at the Arizona Department of Veterans Services and was responsible for coalescing stakeholders to create, implement and evaluate the State’s effort to end homelessness among veterans. Mr. Bridwell served as a key leader in Project H3: Home, Health, Hope; a local implementation of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, uncovering critical innovations in “Housing First” models for people experiencing long-term homelessness and who are medically vulnerable and has played a key leadership role in Project H3 VETS, Maricopa County’s initiative to end chronic homelessness among veterans.
In his previous employment as the Arizona Director for United States Veterans Initiative, the Nation’s largest non-profit dedicated to the successful reintegration of homeless veterans, Mr. Bridwell helped establish over 200 beds of housing and services between its Phoenix and Prescott operations involving use of VA Grant & Per Diem, HUD, City, and State HOME programs and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits among other sources. His Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program established in Phoenix led to “Best Practice” recognition by its funding entity, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
Mr. Bridwell holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor’s of Social Work from Arizona State University. He has also served as the Board Chair of the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness and is a Board Member of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
Leon Winston retired in 2020 from his role as Chief Operating Officer and Housing Director of Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco, CA, where he worked on the housing, treatment, and income support needs of homeless and at-risk veterans for 25 years. A US Navy veteran, he was referred to Swords to Plowshares by the SF VA Medical Center as a homeless client in 1993 and graduated from its transitional housing program prior to coming to work for the organization in 1995.
During his tenure at Swords to Plowshares, he became involved in the creation of Swords’ first Permanent Supportive Housing program, The Veterans Academy, as the 108-unit project was nearing completion in 1999 (upon the sudden retirement of Swords first Housing Director, Maceo May).During the intervening years he was agency lead on the development of multiple other permanent supportive housing projects, including Veterans Commons, 75 units of supportive housing targeting homeless and disabled senior veterans, and Edwin M. Lee Apts, 119 units – 62 supportive units for formerly homelesss veterans and 57 affordable family units.His final project, the 105 unit Maceo May Apts., was starting construction at the time of his retirement in 2020. It will house formerly homeless veterans and their families on the former Naval Station Treasure Island.He was also housing director during the acquisition of two Master Lease permanent supportive housing sites, the Fairfax and Stanford Hotels, totaling over 150 additional single room occupancy units and the creation of a Safe Haven program for treatment-wary chronically homeless veterans.
Leon has prior service on the NCHV board, including as Vice Chair and Chair of its’ Government Relations Committee before leaving the board to prepare for retirement.Other civic involvement includes serving two terms on the VA Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans, several years as member and as co-chair of San Francisco’s Continuum of Care Board, and as Board Chair of the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative.
DanielleApplegate is the Director of Veteran and Military Family Engagement for Cerner Government Services. Prior to bringing her 25 years’ experience to Cerner, she led VetsFirst, an accredited Veteran Service Organization, and served in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Women Veterans, where she created groundbreaking women veteran initiatives and nationwide VA programming.
A fifth-generation veteran with dual-military parents, Danielle served on active duty in the US Army and the National Guard; her duty included a tour in Korea. Due to service-connected injuries, she left active duty and earned an MBA from the University of Massachusetts and a nonprofit executive certificate from Georgetown University. A published military and veteran community subject matter expert and advocate, she serves on the Board of Directors for PsychArmor Institute as the Governance chair, the Board of Directors for the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, the Board of Directors for Hesperus, the National Physical Activity Alliance, as a Carry the Load Ambassador, and on the American Legion’s Small Business Council. She lives in Northern Virginia where she is being raised by two delightful middle schoolers who enjoy volunteering as much as she does.