Veterans of the United States military face a host of challenges during their service and for the years to come afterwards.
We compiled these national and local state resources that assist with a range of issues so that you can seek the kind of help you need.
Transitioning to the civilian world is not always easy, as many veterans struggle to find adequate employment, affordable housing, comprehensive health care and more.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 18.2 million veterans in the U.S. as of 2017.1 Unfortunately, the obstacles that lie before many of America’s service members and retirees are numerous.
Many of the scars left by combat are mental and emotional.
It’s estimated that 30% of military personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan return home with a mental health issue, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Only half of those returning veterans receive any treatment.
Even more troubling is that an average of 20 veterans commit suicide every day in the U.S.2
According to census data, there were over 4.1 million veterans living with a service-connected disability in 2017.4 A “service-connected” disability is a result of injury or disease that was incurred or was aggravated during active military service.
The psychological stress of combat – coupled with long deployments and frequent moves – can strain family relationships. It can also lead some veterans towards alcohol or substance abuse upon their return to civilian life.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that around 7% of U.S. veterans have a substance abuse disorder, and more than 40% of veterans struggle with alcohol abuse at some point in their life.5
Big strides have been made in recent years regarding the employment rate for veterans.
The jobless rate for veterans hit a low of just 2.9% in March 2019, compared to a peak of 9.9% in 2011.6 However, around 326,000 veterans were unemployed in 2018, with 60% of those being age 45 or older.7
Some potential contributing factors include lack of education and work experience, along with mental or physical health impairments.
Some of the factors that contribute to veteran unemployment can also lead to homelessness.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that nearly 40,000 veterans are currently homeless.8
A 2017 analysis revealed that military veterans are more likely than non-veterans to experience credit problems, underwater mortgages and late house payments.3
Close to 50% of American veterans (over 9 million people) are over age 65.
If you or a loved one are a veteran nearing age 65 or older, you may want to consider your health care coverage options, which may include:
If you only have VA insurance benefits, you are limited to receiving covered health care services only at VA facilities. If you also enroll in Medicare Part A hospital insurance and/or Part B medical insurance (Part B is optional), your health care provider options open up to include more hospitals, doctors, pharmacies and other providers who accept Medicare.
If you are not on active duty and are entitled to premium-free Medicare Part A, then you must also enroll in Medicare Part B in order to keep TRICARE coverage.
You must also be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B (together known as Original Medicare) in order to have TRICARE For Life. The lone exception is if you are the spouse of an active duty service member, in which case you do not need to enroll in Medicare Part B.
Veterans Crisis Line
The Veterans Crisis Line is a free and confidential hotline lending support to veterans 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. The line may be reached at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or 1-800-799-4889 for the deaf or hard of hearing. You may also send a text message to 838255.
Support is provided by qualified VA responders, and veterans are free to call on behalf of themselves or another veteran for whom they are concerned. If you or another service member are at risk for suicide, a trained responder will help you through the crisis and make sure everyone involved is safe.
If you or the service member you’re concerned about is not at immediate risk for suicide, the trained responder will still listen and offer support. You get to decide how much information you want to share.
Military OneSource provides non-medical counseling services to veterans. Counseling services are free, confidential and provided by trained counselors experienced in military life.
Sessions are available by phone, in-person, live chat or video chat. Trained counselors can help talk through a number of issues with you, such as:
Department of Veterans Affairs Compensation
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides monthly compensation to veterans, their surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents as a result of an injury, disease or death suffered during active service.
Depending on your situation, you or your loved ones may qualify for compensation such as the following:
Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization is a non-profit charity that helps veterans and their families and survivors with benefits claims.
American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA)
The American Legion sponsors a Temporary Financial Assistance program that awards cash grants to minor children of American Legion members. The money is designed to keep children in a more stable environment by helping with shelter, food, utilities and health expenses.
Additional financial assistance resources for veterans include:
The Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program provides medical, social, vocational and rehabilitation therapy to veterans battling alcohol and drug dependency.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides scientifically proven services for veterans in need of substance abuse treatment that includes therapy and medication.
Additional substance abuse resources for veterans include:
There are a number of programs designed to help veterans transition from the battlefield to the workforce. Services can include job training, employment matching and recruiting, apprenticeship programs and more.
You can find employment assistance resources from some of the following organizations:
The VA helps veterans and surviving spouses achieve homeownership courtesy of a home loan guaranty benefit and other housing-related programs. VA Home Loans are provided by banks, mortgage companies and other private lenders, and a portion of the loan is guaranteed by the VA.
Another resource is the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency and supportive housing for veterans.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offers the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. The SSVF awards grants to local non-profits and other groups that help low-income veteran families who are living in or transitioning to permanent housing.
These local groups can help eligible veterans and their families with outreach, case management, and other VA benefits such as:
Additional housing resources for veterans include:
The GI Bill has helped millions of veterans attend college since World War II. The program can cover up to 100% of the cost of tuition and up to $1,000 per month in living expenses.
The Yellow Ribbon Program can also help qualified veterans attend institutions of higher education as part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
The Community for Accredited Online Schools contains an expansive section dedicated to veterans. This includes information about academic benefits in each state, financial aid and scholarships, help selecting a school and more.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Financial Counseling Service assists qualified veterans and their beneficiaries with financial planning and online will preparation at no cost.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Fiduciary Program utilizes fiduciaries – typically chosen by the beneficiary – to help veterans who are unable to manage their financial affairs due to injury, disease, illness or age.
Family members or friends will usually serve as fiduciaries, but the VA will looks for qualified individuals or organizations when friends and family aren’t able to perform the required duties.
Many veterans are eligible for health care benefits through the VA, which has more than 1,200 facilities across the U.S. and consistently ranks among the nation’s leading providers of care.
TRICARE also provides comprehensive health care insurance to many veterans and their families all around the world.
1. United States Census Bureau American FactFinder. U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Accessed April, 2019, from https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/17_1YR/DP02.
2. Mental Health First Aid USA. Veterans and Military. National Council for Behavioral Health. Retrieved April, 2019, from www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/veterans-military.
3. Fay, Bill. New Study: Veterans More Likely to Suffer Credit Problems, But Save More. (Dec. 15, 2017). Debt.org. Retrieved from www.debt.org/blog/new-study-veterans-more-likely-to-suffer-credit-problems.
4. United States Census Bureau American FactFinder. U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Accessed April, 2019, from https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/17_1YR/B21100.
5. AddictionResource.com. Veterans and Addiction: The Many Sides of the Problem. Retrieved April, 2019, from addictionresource.com/addiction/veterans-and-substance-abuse.
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Table A-5. Employment status of the civilian population 18 years and over by veteran status, period of service, and sex, not seasonally adjusted. (Updated Apr. 5, 2019). Retrieved from www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t05.htm.
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment Situation of Veterans Summary. (March 21, 2019). Retrieved from www.bls.gov/news.release/vet.nr0.htm.