Edward Whitehead holds great-granddaughter, Elyse, during a 2006 Memorial Day event. Photo: Faith Drescher, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
By Kelli Brewer
More than most, veterans and active-duty members are very aware of the sacrifices required to preserve this nation’s comfort and security. Sadly, many vets face tragic struggles when they return home. These might include unemployment, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), addiction, suicidal thoughts, or relationship issues.
But you can help! If you’re interested in providing aid to our fellow vets and their families, here are some ideas for how you can be of service in their hour of need.
Become a Social Worker
So, you’re leaving the military and seeking a new direction. Are you so passionate about helping our troops that you’d be willing to make a career of it? If so, pursuing social work could be your path to assisting veterans and service members on a full-time basis.
There are various types of social workers, including those who specialize in helping veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, social workers can partner with the Veterans Health Administration to provide a wide range of services to veterans. Some of these services include counseling, therapy, outreach for homeless veterans, financial and housing assistance, and long-term planning.
If you’re interested in a career in social work, obtaining a degree provides a solid foundation. Most social workers have a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Several American universities offer MSW programs, many of which can be completed online. These degree programs usually require some hands-on fieldwork, giving you the opportunity to interact with your fellow vets one-on-one.
Teach Senior Veterans About Healthcare
Photo: Scott A. Thornbloom, U.S. Navy, courtesy of dvidshub.net
You don’t have to have a degree to offer senior veterans guidance on the Medicare system. While health insurance is very important, many seniors struggle to understand their available benefits and how it all works. As a result, they may lack adequate coverage for their health needs, especially since plans can change each year. The best way to help is by learning all you can about Medicare and then relaying that information to a senior veteran in an easy-to-understand way.
One aspect of Medicare that can benefit senior veterans is Medigap. Since regular Medicare can include many out-of-pocket costs, it might be worth switching to Medigap’s Plan F or G to offset the costs. Both of these plans offer complete coverage for several costs that other supplemental insurance plans cover, but Plan F also takes care of the Medicare Part B deductible.
Another way to help is by exercising your right to vote. Carefully research candidates and vote for those politicians who prioritize our veterans and service members. There are many military and civilian publications and websites that help determine which candidates are pro-vet or are veterans themselves. And, If you’re interested in running for office, you can apply for a graduate program to kick-start your own career in politics!
Even when it’s not election season, you can still promote veterans’ rights. For example, you might write your Senators and Representatives. Explain what contributions you’d like them to make to improve the lives of vets and to protect our benefits.
Spread Mental Health Awareness
Photo: Małgorzata Tomczak courtesy of Pixabay
A high number of veterans are living with PTSD, suicidal tendencies, or other forms of emotional distress or mental illness due to their military experiences. The National Institutes of Health describes PTSD as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” Considering what many service members witness on the battlefield, it’s no wonder why so many vets are living with PTSD.
Luckily, help is within reach. In addition to psychotherapy and counseling, PTSD shots are on the way. These single-injection PTSD shots have shown promise in helping relieve symptoms for some victims of PTSD.
Until these PTSD shots are readily available, you can help our vets and their families by spreading awareness. Start by familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of PTSD, mental illness, and suicidal thoughts. Share the warning signs with people you know, along with info on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You never know when someone might need this life-saving information!
Help a Worthy Cause
Another way to do your part is by donating time or money to nonprofits, charities, and organizations that aim to help our troops. According to Veterans Advantage, over 45,000 organizations exist to help U.S. veterans and service members.
But before giving money to an organization, it’s crucial to research where your money will go! You may consider choosing respected, not-for-profit organizations like the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) or the Semper Fi Fund.
Our fellow veterans have given themselves in service to our country. Please consider helping these men and women who’ve sacrificed so much. Whether donating money or volunteering your time, there are a variety of ways you can help. Find one that suits you. Your kind actions and support will mean more than you know and may change a vet’s life for the better!