This is the time of year when we look forward and back. We’ve talked about a lot of issues our men and women veterans face this past year. In our day-to-day at the National Veterans Foundation, several incidents from our Lifeline for Vets crisis and information line stand out.
On a rainy morning in February, we distributed 24,000 new Lands’ End garments to vets at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. In March, a blog we posted here caught the eye of a veteran advocate on the East Coast, who took up the fight for Sgt. Major Jesse Acosta when the VA removed his Caregiver benefits. Blind, and managing both PTSD and TBI, Jesse needs his caregiver just to make daily life happen for him.
Later in the year we helped a disabled veteran keep his home in the Midwest after the death of his wife. He called, suicidal on the eve of a foreclosure sale. It took days, but the sale was reversed and we connected him to a local chapter of a fraternal veterans organization and a Veteran Service Officer to help him access his medical benefits.
A woman vet with service-related disabilities and a survivor of MST (Military Sexual Trauma) was fighting an unfair Uncharacterized Discharge (related to her disability). Her civilian disability pay ran out while she was waiting for her service-connected compensation to kick in. She was on the verge of homelessness. With the help of donors and Nation of Patriots, we kept her from becoming homeless.
And this doesn’t touch on the number of crisis calls we handle, nor the number of information calls we get from vets and their family members. I think of a friend of a woman vet who called because this mother of three was living in her car with her children. We were able to put her in touch with local programs funded by the VA so that the family was housed.
What all these stories have in common is that a vet in crisis often doesn’t know where to turn. Many have no idea what resources are in place for them. That’s where we come in. We’re the ones to call when you don’t know where to turn for help.
Looking forward, I know the new year will bring many more stories like these. Troops are being shipped out as I write this, and troops are rotating back to the U.S., some from combat zones. They return changed and to a changing world that didn’t stop while they were away. Some have been out of the military for a while but are still struggling to adjust to civilian life. They need jobs, access to their VA benefits, counseling in some cases, housing in others. But the one thing all of these veterans need is hope.
And that’s what we give them. That and a friendly voice, a human instead of a menu of options from an automatic answering system. Everything we do is people-to-people. Sometimes it only takes a moment to answer a question or provide a resource. Sometimes, as with our crisis calls, it takes a lot more time and follow-up. But here’s the thing: They’re worth it.
Everything we accomplish stems from people like you willing to get involved, to care, to support the organizations, like ours, who serve our men and women vets. Thank you.
Wishing everyone of you a happy and healthy New Year. And if you know a veteran who needs help, here’s our Lifeline for Vets toll-free number: 888.777.4443