November is the month that Americans make sure our veterans know and feel the appreciation we have for their service. Taking care of veterans is important, but, sadly, the traditional resources available to servicemembers often fall short and can leave veterans to fend for themselves.
Sometimes, veterans and their families must rely on alternative resources to meet their needs. Fortunately, there are various agencies and organizations whose purpose is to address any gaps in the benefits that veterans receive.
Major Issues Facing U.S. Vets and Their Families
Some of the most common hurdles that veterans face include:
- Physical disability
- Poor mental health
- Lack of estate planning
- A need for family support
Many of these challenges facing veterans also impact their families. However, there are some lesser-known resources that American veterans can take advantage of to ensure they can care for themselves and their families into the future.
What Resources Are Available?
Helping Physically Disabled Veterans
Veterans may acquire various physical disabilities or illnesses while serving our country. Qualifying veterans may seek out disability compensation through the VA. Yet getting access to the benefits based on your service can be difficult and stressful, given that the claims process is involved and requires detailed documentation.
You may want to find an experienced veterans benefits lawyer to assist you. Other supports are also available, including the following:
Wounded Warrior Project
In 2003, the Wounded Warrior Project began helping veterans gain access to their benefits if they incurred a permanent disability after combat. Working with one of its benefits services representatives, retired servicemembers have an advocate as they file for VA disability compensation and caregiver benefits. The Wounded Warrior Project also helps veterans prepare for the compensation and pension exam, which often decides whether the veteran will receive disability benefits from the VA.
Disabled American Veterans
The nonprofit Disabled American Veterans (DAV) also provides no-cost counseling to veterans seeking disability benefits. Consult the next section for more about DAV.
Unemployment Among Veterans With Disabilities
According to the United States Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, the unemployment rate among veterans has risen to 2.9 percent as of October 2023. Veterans with a disability experienced an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent. Many American veterans want to find purpose again through stable employment.
One resource that can help veterans get back into the workforce is Disabled American Veterans (DAV). DAV is a nonprofit that helps disabled veterans and their spouses across the country gain employment. It hosts job fairs, can link you with employers seeking to hire veterans, and more.
The DAV Patriot Boot Camp specifically helps veterans and military spouses connect with mentors, education programs, and resources so they can create or advance their own business. Search for your local DAV office online.
Addressing Mental Health Concerns Among Veterans
The horrors of combat do not quickly fade. Addressing mental health concerns can improve the overall quality of life among veterans suffering from a service-related mental health condition. Fortunately, veterans can seek out certain resources, in addition to filing a claim for VA disability benefits, to start down the path toward gaining peace of mind.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has programs that help support veterans coping with specific mental health issues, including the following:
- substance abuse
- tobacco use
- Bipolar Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- the effects of traumatic brain injury
- military sexual trauma
- suicide prevention
Retired servicemembers can also take advantage of such programs.
Helping Unhoused Veterans
According to statistics gathered by the VA, the percentage of veterans experiencing homelessness has decreased by 55.3 percent since 2010. Despite this significant decline in homelessness rates among veterans, 33,129 veterans experienced homelessness in 2022.
Traditionally, veterans rely on vouchers and other VA benefits to secure housing, especially if they have not secured employment. Some public housing authorities also give preference to military veterans. For those who do not have this option, lesser-known programs are crucial to bridge the resources gap.
Tunnels to Towers Foundation
The Tunnels to Towers Foundation is one such nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness among veterans. Since 2002, this program has been helping unhoused veterans secure housing. In 2023 alone, the Tunnels to Towers Foundation helped more than 3,000 veterans find a place to call home. Its Homeless Veterans Program provides these essential services:
- Access to immediate shelter, including paying for hotel rooms
- Access to food and child care
- Broker fees, security deposits, and first month’s rent
- Rental application fees
- Storage and mover fees
- Utility deposits and arrears
Its Smart Home program serves veterans with catastrophic injuries, assisting them in securing housing with such accessible features as automatic door openers and wider hallways.
To ensure they maintain their dignity as they age and protect their family’s assets, veterans should consider creating a solid estate plan. Disabled veterans may be able to access legal services offering will preparation or financial planning for free. In addition, some of the following estate planning tools can help alleviate the complex issues that affect veterans’ estate planning.
Long-Term Care for Veterans
Depending on their medical needs, veterans of any age might benefit from long-term care. Long-term care, however, can quickly get expensive.
The VA offers medical services for patients in need, including access to assistance with activities of daily living and pain management, as well as respite for caretakers. A veteran may use a combination of VA health care benefits, long-term care insurance, and private pay to cover the cost of care.
Veterans Aid and Attendance
This underused program pays qualified caretakers to meet the needs of veterans (or their surviving spouse) who are eligible for this service, even if they do not have a disability. The Aid and Attendance program pays for these services if the veteran:
- Served 90 consecutive days, with at least one full day of service during wartime.
- Meets the financial and clinical criteria.
Veterans Asset Protection Trust (VAPT)
Veterans Asset Protection Trusts help veterans who might make more money or have acquired assets that price them out of normal veteran benefits. A VAPT is an estate planning tool that holds assets for three years during a look-back period that is like Medicaid’s look-back period.
A VAPT can help veterans protect their assets, including their primary residence, and allow them to qualify for benefits. Veterans fund a VAPT with cash assets. The assets placed into the trust can help a veteran pay for their living expenses during the penalty period.
The Fisher House Foundation and Other Family Support Services
The challenges that veterans face are often shared by their families and loved ones. For sick or injured servicemembers or their loved ones who seek care at a VA or military medical center, the nonprofit Fisher House is available to provide support for free to military families.
Starting in 1990, the Fisher House has been working with veterans of all eras and their families who need lodging while a servicemember is hospitalized. The Fisher House also sponsors free facilities for families, including private bedrooms, bathrooms, and living areas located in VA hospitals or hotels across the country through its Hotels for Heroes Program.
The VA also provides offers several programs in support of family caregivers of qualifying veterans.
VA Caregiver Support Program
The VA Caregiver Support Program provides clinical services to the caregivers of veterans covered by the VA health care system. Search for a Caregiver Support Program team near you.
This service includes the Program of General Caregiver Support Services, which helps support family caregivers of veterans who receive VA health care by providing training in caregiving skills, peer support mentoring, self-care, and community resources.
Caregiver support through the VA also includes the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, which offers a variety of services, most notably health insurance, financial stipends, mental health counseling, and respite care for caregivers.