Any day is a good day to honor and support those who have served our country, but especially on Veterans Day, November 11. In this article Guest contributor Rhonda Underhill shares ways in which we can help veterans in our community.
Veterans and their families face many challenges, from deployment stress and anxiety to depression, substance abuse, disability, unemployment, and even homelessness. In 2020, for instance, the unemployment rate rose for both male and female veterans — and about 26 percent of veterans held a service-related disability. Moreover, about 67,495 of America’s veterans are experiencing homelessness at this time.
So as Christians and followers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), what can each of us do to help the veterans in our communities who may be overcoming challenges such as these? Read on to find some ideas.
1. Connect Them With Helpful Resources
Many programs and services are available to assist current and former service members and their families, but accessing these resources can be difficult — especially for those without access to the internet, suitable housing, or transportation. But if you know a veteran who needs help finding a job or accessing medical care, here are some resources to share with the service member:
- Mental health resources such as crisis hotlines, helplines, and free clinics.
- Spiritual resources such as Never Alone, Soldier’s Heart, and Operation Restored Warrior. Also your local congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Middle Village.
- Low-cost or free transportation through the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Angel Airlines for Veterans, Operation Homefront, and Help Our Military Heroes (HOMH).
2. Help Them Find or Modify a Home
In addition to connecting veterans and their families with various programs and services, you can help them to find suitable housing or make their current home more accessible. Many veterans can qualify for a VA home loan, for instance, allowing them to buy a house without putting money down or paying for mortgage insurance.
As another option, veterans can apply for the VA’s Special Housing Adaptation(SHA) grant, Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant, or Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grant. For those facing homelessness, the VA also offers housing solutions, health care, and employment opportunities for veterans.
3. Volunteer With the VA
Another way to help service members in your community is to become a VA volunteer. If you have a medical background, for instance, you could become a volunteer Physician Ambassador for the VA — as these professionals provide services such as primary care, cardiac care, and emergency medicine. Or if you have a valid driver’s license, you could drive veterans to and from medical appointments as part of the VA’s Volunteer Transportation Network (VTN).
You Can Make a Difference
There are many different ways to help current and former service members throughout the U.S., but it’s not always easy knowing how or when to get involved. These ideas are a great starting point, as they’ll help to meet the spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial needs of service members in your community.