August 23, 2017, by Brooke Faulkner – Finding resources for veterans outside the VA system can seem like a daunting task. The VA system itself has been plagued with problems and long wait times for health services for years. For somewhat inexplicable reasons, possibly due to a large influx of new patients, an allotment of $2.5 billion for hiring new staff didn’t result in either more staff or a reduction in wait times.
The main barriers to the excellent care provided by VA hospitals seem to be organizational problems, and a lack of data-driven prioritizing that keeps wait times high.
While the government wrestles with the best way to tackle these fundamental flaws, if you or a family member is waiting for care, there may be some good news. Nonprofit programs have been developed to fill the gaps in government care.
None of this is to say that you should discount the VA altogether, there are a number of fantastic resources to takes advantage of, such as VA home loans. But when it comes to healthcare, a lot of people need a little more help.
Probably the most pressing need is healthcare for veterans who struggle with both physical injuries and trauma. For example, there appears to be a correlation between increased risk of suicide and lack of access to VA care.
The Wounded Warrior Project is a large nonprofit that works to fill the gaps in care for wounded veterans. They serve veterans of all levels of need, from people who are looking for community and peer resources, to wounded veterans with the greatest care need. They provide free physical and mental healthcare, civilian life transition assistance, and community involvement programs.
The Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation is specifically focused on mental health, post-traumatic stress, and traumatic brain injuries. As a foundation, they don’t offer services themselves; rather, they advocate and fundraise for a number of mental health services, as well as organize events. Their website links to a number of programs that they support.
Hope For The Warriors is another organization that offers a wide range of resources, from clinical care to community and transition aid. They also offer short-term financial assistance under some circumstances.
Career and Life Transition Resources
There are a number of organizations drawing attention to the need for additional career opportunities for veterans. These include political committees that try to influence policy and charitable groups that provide resources to help veterans transition into civilian life.
Public sector employment has good prospects for veterans, as many federal employers prioritize hiring veterans. The United States Postal Service gives preference to veterans and their families during the hiring process, along with other federal employers.
But some organizations are trying to increase representation of veterans in the private sector and empower them to start their own businesses.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is a large organization that provides social workers, community support, advocacy, mentorship, and employment resources to veterans. They also have an incubator for veteran-led start-up businesses.
Homes for Our Troops builds and donates disability-adapted homes to severely injured veterans. The homes are mortgage free and specially adapted for the individual veteran’s injuries. The organization notes that the “jumping off point” of a home has enabled wounded veterans to pursue degrees and careers.
Hire Heroes USA provides workshops, career coaching, and job sourcing services for veterans and their families. Their mission is to empower veterans and their spouses to excel in civilian careers.
Community and Quality of Life Resources
Veterans Expeditions is based in Colorado but does hold out-of-state events and activities from time to time. They focus on outdoor activities and their power to provide community, holistic care, and purpose. They aim to help veterans “reconnect with the land they served” as well as get involved in a rewarding physical activity.
Pets for Vets connects veterans with shelter dogs, with a focus on compatible pairing and animal therapy. The shelter dogs are given professional training in order to best help the veterans they are paired with.
Project Healing Waters is a program focused on fly fishing. They use fly fishing and associated activities as healing and rehabilitation aids for the veterans they serve. They have developed a robust therapeutic outdoor recreation program in partnership with the VA and other hospitals.
There are many more organizations that work with, or work to supplement the VA in order to address gaps in care and resources. It could be a long time before the functional gaps in the VA system are fully healed and scandals are fully recovered from. Until then, concerned citizens and fellow veterans have taken up the duty of filling in the gaps.
Author Bio: Brooke Faulkner is a mother of two and writer based in Portland, Oregon. She loves anything to do with historical nonfiction.