John Elliott Pickens III – Executive Director, VeteransPlus and the Yellow Ribbon Registry Network
In 1994 John was selected as Special Assistant to the Director and Public Affairs Officer for the Lake City VA John Pickens has devoted his entire adult life to serving his fellow Veterans. From 1970 – 1973 he served as an Army combat medic with the U.S. Army Special Forces and the 82nd Airborne Division. In 1974 John began working for the U.S. Veterans Administration and enrolled at the University of South Florida where he helped form a student Veterans organization. After graduating from USF in 1979 John progressed to positions of increased responsibilities within the VA.
Medical Center. At Lake City he represented VA in the community as the Vice President of the County Senior Services Association, and as a board member for the County School Foundation and Chamber of Commerce. In 1998, John was selected as the Public Affairs Officer for the newly formed North Florida/South Georgia VA Health System. From this position, John established Chamber of Commerce memberships for all North Florida/South Georgia VA facilities in their respective communities, founded a Public Affairs Council, and implemented annual briefings for every congressional district in the catchment area.
In 2004, John was selected as the Department of Veterans Affairs Network Communications Manager for VISN8, the largest of 22 VA Networks with responsibilities for VA assets in Florida, Southern Georgia, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Here John established a Public Affairs Work Group, and implemented web communications. Working with congressional offices throughout the Network he helped establish congressional forums and veteran advisory boards that would allow veterans and their families to meet face to face with VA leadership and their congressional representatives to address veteran issues and concerns.
John retired from federal service on January 31, 2010 and on February 1, 2010; he became the Executive Director of VeteransPlus, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit financial education organization. Since 2010 VeteransPlus licensed financial counselors have assisted over 180,000 men and women. VeteransPlus conducts outreach through a variety of methods including: a dynamic internet presence; Yellow Ribbon and Transition Assistance Programs, Welcome Home and Reintegration events and in partnership with organizations and foundations dedicated to the financial wellness of current and former military members.
Under John’s leadership, VeteransPlus has been recognized as a Silver Level Organization by GuideStar and obtained major grants from the BrAIve Fund, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Citi, the Rose Foundation and the Ryder Charitable Foundation to provide financial education and counseling services to Veterans and their families.