It goes without saying that veterans are heroes. These brave men and women literally put their lives on the line to ensure those of us at home continue to enjoy the freedoms that make our country great. Unfortunately, veterans often pay a great price for their service – for instance, did you know that 26 percent of veterans experience a service-connected disability?
These disabilities can affect their ability to work and earn an income. In addition, veterans represent 8 percent of the country’s homeless population, despite making up only 6 percent of the population at large. They deserve so much more, and volunteers can help make sure veterans get what they deserve. Interested in helping out? Let’s look at five different ways you can support your local veteran community.
Drive for DAV
First, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is an incredible nonprofit that helps injured veterans in a few different ways. They help fill out complicated VA claims (allowing veterans access to treatments) and provide transportation to and from VA hospitals. For this, they need drivers, and that’s where you come in.
If you’d like to volunteer to drive a DAV van and ensure our heroes have easy access to medical care, fill out the volunteer driver form online. You can also find your local DAV office on this page. Feel free to give them a call and inquire about any other types of volunteers they’re looking for – they may want you to keep a veteran company, for instance, or deliver groceries.
Work at a VA hospital
The Department of Veterans Affairs was set up in 1989 to help soldiers returning home re-adapt to civilian life. It provides benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, and military home loans to vets and their families. The organization operates nearly 1,300 medical facilities that provide everything from checkups to life-saving operations to those who’ve served. As with any hospital, VA hospitals need volunteers. As a volunteer at a VA hospital, you might interact with patients, helping them feel a bit less lonely in difficult times. You may also work behind the scenes, helping with day-to-day paperwork and keeping things running smoothly.
Help homeless veterans
As mentioned earlier, veterans represent a disproportionate percentage of the homeless population. If you’re interested in helping homeless vets get back on their feet, consider volunteering for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. They work with federal agencies to build housing and do their best to influence policy in a direction that helps veterans. The NCHV also runs Stand Down programs. These programs provide food, shelter, health screenings, and other services to homeless veterans over a 1-3 day period.
Make a donation
All of the above mentioned organizations accept monetary donations. You can also donate items. For instance, the Department of Veterans Affairs accepts donations of things like toothbrushes, shampoos, new sneakers, and clothes. If you’re interested in donating food, Feed Our Vets is a group that provides food to veterans and their families. You can provide food if you’re close to a Feed Our Vets food pantry. Obviously, you’ll want to give non-perishables. You can find your local pantry by doing a simple search in the VA.gov website.
Say thank you
It’s always good to thank a veteran for their service – it’s really the least we can do. If you have veterans in your neighborhood, consider writing a heartfelt letter and leaving it in their mailbox. This gesture especially means a lot to Vietnam veterans, who were not always welcomed home kindly or thanked when that war ended.
Overall, there’s no shortage of opportunities to volunteer and help veterans. There are many different groups across the country that want and need your help and, if you want to help vets have a better life, you can. Thank you for your service!