As a civilian, it’s hard to understand the hidden challenges facing our nation’s service members. Active duty military and their families contend with repeated deployments, constant moves, and tight budgets while serving the country. These challenges change when service members leave the military, but they don’t go away: U.S. veterans deal with stigma, social isolation, unemployment, and a confusing benefits system when they re-enter the civilian world.
You might not understand every challenge facing our nation’s military, but you can still help. Whether you know a military family or veteran personally or just want to give back to those who have sacrificed so much, these are six ways big and small that you can support service members and veterans.
Military spouses have a tough job. Not only do they frequently have to start over in a new place, but due to deployments, military spouses have to coordinate moves alone and serve as a single parent while their husband or wife is away. As a neighbor, friend, or congregation member, you can lift the weight off a military spouse’s shoulders by offering free babysitting, moving help, or other neighborly services.
Accessing healthcare isn’t easy for veterans, especially those in rural areas who have to drive long distances to reach a VA medical center. Even for veterans with easy access to VA care, knowing when to see the VA and when to get care locally can be confusing, since VA health care and Medicare don’t coordinate benefits. Unfortunately, this confusion can lead to health needs going unmet. It’s also important to ensure that any gaps in coverage are addressed, be it through paying for these needs out of pocket or enrolling in a Medicare Supplement plan. In fact, Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan F and Plan G cover more than most Medigap plans, including Medicare Part A deductibles.
Service dogs aid veterans with physical disabilities and psychiatric conditions like PTSD. Unfortunately, trained service dogs are expensive, and many veterans who need a service dog can’t afford one. Anyone can make a one-time donation to an organization like Companions for Heroes, but if you want to do more, coordinate a fundraiser to maximize the amount you give.
Do you have more time than money? You can still make a difference by donating your labor to an organization that builds homes for veterans. Homes for Our Troops and Habitat for Humanity are two organizations where you can get involved in a volunteer day and contribute to a veteran’s future home.
Does the idea of a mission-driven career motivate you? Social workers play an important role in supporting active duty military and veterans, offering counseling and connecting veterans and service members with the resources they need to thrive. This career requires a Master of Social Work degree and 900 to 1,200 hours of field work, but you can find flexible degree programs that offer part-time schedules and online classes.
If you own a successful business, you can make a difference for military members without changing your career. Offer a military discount at your business, and you’ll not only make your active duty customers feel appreciated, you’ll attract new business from other service members.
When all else fails, you can always make an impact by donating to one of the many organizations that support our military and veterans. Just be cautious when choosing an organization to donate to. There are many worthy causes out there, but there are also scammers posing as legitimate charities. The Military Wallet explains how to verify a charity before sending a check.
Content contributed by Brian Boyd
Image via Unsplash