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Delivering Hope: A VA Partnership with DoorDash

Delivering Hope: A VA Partnership with DoorDash
Delivering Hope: A VA Partnership with DoorDash

Pathways to Success is a pilot program which partners the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, DoorDash – the nation's largest restaurant delivery platform by volume, and Zoomo – a premier e-bike manufacturer.

Together, the program’s sponsors want to help in-need Veterans in their return to employment by providing them the tools they need to work as “Dashers” –  including providing e-bikes –  along with financial coaching and empowerment materials to help in their transition to living independently.

“Through this exciting partnership with DoorDash, Veterans are provided with meaningful employment and an opportunity to build connections with their community. Meaningful employment is a crucial step in developing a sense of purpose and a motivation to rebuild their lives,” said Jacob Larson, supervisory vocational development specialist at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. “We know having a job can make a monumental difference in a Veteran’s life and we are excited about the future of this partnership with DoorDash.”

The Pathway to Success for Two New Dashers

Two Veterans that will be joining the new project are Army Veteran Jeremy McCree and Marine José Lopez. Both are native Angelenos who have experienced ups and downs since leaving the service.

Joining the army at 18, Jeremy McCree would be stationed in Georgia. At the time, his plans included earning money to attend a historically black college or university.

“I got a lot out of my service. It was a good experience overall. In the years after, some things happened that made me change my plans,” said McCree.

That included a bout with homelessness. As a father of three, McCree always had incentive to come back from the brink. And he did: he was able to find housing with the help of VA. He also had previous experience in the gig economy as an Uber driver. As a people person, McCree felt it was a good fit.

José has been off the street for a year and a half thanks to a federal rental assistance voucher. He, like Jeremy, is also enthusiastic about Pathways to Success.

“There’s more flexibility. I don’t have to reorganize my schedule,” Lopez said, “It’s also good because it helps me get out into the community and not be stuck in isolation.”

Lopez was familiar with DoorDash. He had a friend that was working as a driver and recommended it to him. He even joined his friend on some deliveries. At the time he thought the job could be a great fit, but there was an obstacle: he didn’t have a car.

“I thought, ‘This is pretty nice: You walk in there, grab some food, go deliver it, and that’s it.’ You get paid. There’s no rocket science or fancy algorithm to figure out,” he said. “This program is a blessing for Veterans, especially for the ones out there who’ve been homeless or had mental health issues. Just getting a job brings back a sense of purpose, motivation, a thriving – I feel like I belong in the community.”

For him, access to an e-bike was crucial. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it means I can now get around. My hope is to venture into IT stuff, digital marketing, data analytics. I’d like to coach in the future. Now that I’m grounded in my spot, I want to set some goals and pursue my next venture.”

How the Pathways to Success Program Will Work

Through a partnership with Zoomo, through a special rent-to-own agreement, Veteran Dashers will keep their e-bikes at the end of the 6-month pilot program. Also, DoorDash has committed to making Veterans 15 percent of their Dasher fleet and offers them “Top Dasher” status; this entitles Veterans more control over scheduling their own shifts and offers them priority when there is a dip in order volume. They will also receive same-day pay through debit cards.

The aim of the Pathways program is to support those facing barriers to employment in the traditional economy. Through the program’s partnerships, resources and advocacy will be provided to ensure success on and off the platform for participants, including financial empowerment education and financial coaching. The program will develop and provide targeted onboarding training for Veterans who need it.

Both VA and its partner have great hopes as to what this program could accomplish. Said Senior Manager, Government Relations at DoorDash Laura Curtis: “We are deeply grateful to our Veterans for their service and are proud to expand access to earnings opportunities for some of the most vulnerable Veterans.”

Integrating support and other resources were key components to better ensure longer term success. Curtis continues: “As part of our ongoing financial empowerment work, this partnership is an opportunity for us to empower Veterans and provide them the tools to achieve financial independence and access to permanent housing.”