Anyone that knows me is aware of my soft spot for our military. Even during times when I’ve not supported a war, I’ve always supported those who have bravely served our country and had to endure things that most of us cannot begin to imagine.
Two professional experiences solidified my sensitivity toward veterans and the families who care for them. The first was a summer internship at the Indianapolis Vet Center, an outpatient clinic providing counseling for veterans. The second was a year-long internship at the Buffalo VA Medical Center.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army / B.J. Weiner
It was in Indianapolis where I met the veteran who explained that after spending months in Vietnam in a perpetual state of alert to prevent being killed in myriad ways, coming home to a job sweeping steps was a bit difficult. And yet his family understandably struggled to grasp why he wasn’t thankful for such a peaceful job.
In Buffalo, my exposure to the horrors of war through the eyes of those who had lived it increased tenfold. I was truly overwhelmed by the physical and psychological traumas our nation’s service members had suffered.
And yet I wanted to learn more. I read everything I could about how to help veterans. I even went to so far as to watch every war movie I could find, which culminated in one weekend marathon that included Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Casualties of War, Full Metal Jacket and a number of Molson Goldens.
(Note to reader: Do not try this at home!)
Needless to say, veterans hold a special place in my heart. So do their caregivers, who must often manage multiple health problems, visible and invisible wounds, and complex healthcare benefit programs.
If you are caring for a veteran, here are five resources to make your journey a little easier:
This caregiver portal was created by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The comprehensive resource includes information about available services (adult day care, in-home care, etc.), tips and checklists to stay organized, and new resources for caregivers of post-9/11 veterans. They also have a toll-free support line at 1-855-260-3274.
Finally! The VA has created an online portal where veterans and their families can learn about available benefits, keep records updated in a secure online space, and apply for and access multiple benefits from one site.
This is a more general site focused on improving quality of life for military families, but the association maintains a helpful page specifically on caregiver benefits.
“Connecting wounded warriors, service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers with those who support them,” the directory includes a page focused on family and caregiver support which links to hundreds of guides, tips, and services. For instance, when I clicked on the subheading Caring for Injured Service Members and Veterans, a list of over 60 resources appeared.
This online community for caregivers of veterans is private and is not connected to the Department of Veteran Affairs. The site also has a blog that can be accessed from the home page.
If you care for a veteran, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these resources as well as additional ones not listed. What has helped you address the unique needs of your veteran? What gaps in existing resources would you like to see filled?
And most importantly, thank you for what you do. Your everyday generosity, resourcefulness, and triumphs have not gone unnoticed.
If I still drank Molson Golden, I would make a sincere toast to you.