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5 playing cards are displayed in an accordion fashion, laying flat on a table. The first card has the number for the Women Veteran's Call Center (855-VA-WOMEN or 1-855-829-6636) and a message, "Call for free services for women Veterans." The second card, the 3 of hearts, shows a picture of waves on a beach and the message, "Emotions are like waves." The third card is the Jack of clubs, and it says, "Feel your heart beating. Feel your feet on the ground." The fourth card is the King of diamonds, and it says, "I have a purpose." The fifth and final card is the Ace of spades, and it shows the logo for the Homeless Veterans call line (877-4AID-VET, or 877-424-3838) and the message, "Call for help with VA housing or mental health services."

Cards for Connection

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Cards for Connection makes it easier for Veterans to access VA resources by literally putting the numbers they most need in their hands, and they benefit employees conducting outreach with Veterans as they provide a durable resource that Veterans are more likely to hold onto. The cards are inexpensive, easy to carry, and discreet. Cards are non-stigmatizing, easy to use, familiar for Veterans, and provide repeated exposure to coping skills and critical VA resources, leading to increased access to VA services.

This innovation is scaling widely with the support of national stakeholders. See more scaling innovations.


11 successful

Awards and Recognition:

2018 Audience Choice Award at the VISN 1 5th Annual Improvement & Innovation Summit, iNET Seed Investee, iNet Spark Award Investee


VHA Innovators Network



  • 45,000 Veterans have received the cards
  • 92% of recipients said they were a Veteran (from anonymous postcard included with card deck)
  • 84% of recipients said they had played with the cards
  • 85% of recipients said they had used some of the skills on the cards
  • 30% of recipients said they had used some of the phone numbers on the cards
  • 4.45: Average rating of the cards, on a scale of 1 (Hate them) to 5 (Love them)
  • Favorite card messages: I can do this/I have a purpose/I am worth it.




During a Human-Centered Design workshop hosted by Drs. Kayt Havens and Shannon McCaslin, we fleshed out the idea for Cards for Connection using content from discovery interviews with two Veterans who work with homeless Veterans, one of whom had previously experienced homelessness. By the end of the workshop we had our first prototype and enough of an idea to start interviews with key stakeholders, to assess acceptability and feasibility for the idea.


We received our first real decks in August 2018. That fall, we conducted focus groups with homeless Veterans living in residential programs to see how they used the cards, and several spontaneously sorted them to identify their favorites. These are the cards selected by one Veteran.


Shortly after the card decks arrived, a Peer Support Specialist came to visit Katie to pick up some decks to distribute. He had helped to generate content for the cards, and this was his first time seeing the professionally produced decks. As he flipped through the cards, he landed on this one and showed it to Katie, saying, "Thank you. You made this happen, and you should be proud of how many people you're going to help."


Current versions of the cards, in a durable plastic case, with a mini permanent marker that can be used to write on the cards (e.g., "Write the number of a local resource or person who can help you. ____________").



This pitch video was produced in 2018 to describe the idea. Since then, we have produced and distributed over 2,000 decks at more than 13 locations. In 2019, we will order and distribute 13,000 decks at VAs and Vet Centers across the country.