Honoring Veterans

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), more than 2.7 million veterans currently receive disability benefits for hearing loss or tinnitus, a ringing in the ears.  In addition, more than 158,000 veterans are blind or visually impaired, according to the Blinded Veterans Association. If you or a loved one is a veteran that falls into one of these categories, you may not realize the resources that are available to help.  This blog will look at a few of these resources, discuss the use of service dogs, and share a new commissary benefit that will start on January 1, 2020.

Resources

There are a wide variety of resources beyond the US Department of Veterans Affairs  available to help veterans throughout the nation. These are just a few of the organizations centered on veterans. To learn more about your local state, county or parish specific assistance you can look them up at VA Locations.

Blinded Veterans Association: BVA is a nonprofit Veterans Service Organization of more than 11,000 members and chartered by the United States Congress. They are designed to be the exclusive voice for blinded veterans before the legislative and executive branches of government. BVA provides a voice for blinded veterans, disseminates information, provides scholarships, offers support, and holds a national convention each year.

Disabled American Veterans:  DAV is a nonprofit charity that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families, helping more than 1 million veterans in positive, life-changing ways each year. Annually, the organization provides more than 600,000 rides to veterans attending medical appointments and assists veterans with well over 200,000 benefit claims. In 2018, DAV helped veterans receive more than $20 billion in earned benefits. DAV’s services are offered at no cost to all generations of veterans, their families and survivors. DAV is also a leader in connecting veterans with meaningful employment, hosting job fairs and providing resources to ensure they can participate in the American Dream their sacrifices have made possible. With nearly 1,300 chapters and more than 1 million members across the country, DAV empowers our nation’s heroes and their families by helping to provide the resources they need and ensuring our nation keeps the promises made to them.

Veterans Criss Line: The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that’s available to anyone, even if you’re not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. The caring, qualified responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans of all ages and circumstances.

Wounded Warrior Project:  Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) serves military service members, who incurred service-connected wounds, injuries, or illnesses on or after September 11, 2001, and their families.

Service Dogs

Service dogs can be an important recovery and sustainability tool for veterans coping with anxiety and/or PTSD. The VA defines service dogs as “guide or service dogs prescribed for a disabled veteran under 38 CFR 17.148 for the purpose of the veteran being diagnosed as having a visual, hearing, or substantial mobility impairment.” To view the requirements and rules to obtain a service dog  through the VA, including veterinary benefits, see Service and Guide Dogs.  VA approved service dogs come from licensed partners of Assistance Dogs International (ADI) or International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF).

Another option for obtaining a service dog is through Southeastern Guide Dogs which is accredited through both ADI and IGDF.  Their landing page states “they serve those that cannot see and those that have seen too much. When people lose vision, it’s easy to lose hope. When veterans lose hope, it’s easy to give up. It’s easy to let the darkness define life instead of living life to its fullest. That’s why we develop extraordinary partnerships between our dogs and the people who need them, and offer our dogs and services at no cost, throughout the United States. We operate the most advanced training facilities of any service dog organization in the world. We create elite working dogs and provide life-changing services for people with vision loss, veterans with disabilities, and children with significant challenges such as vision loss or the loss of a parent in the military.”

Commissary Benefits Beginning January 1, 2020

The following information is taken from Military.com.  The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are gearing up for what will be the largest expansion of patrons to the military commissary system and exchanges in 65 years, making sure that shoppers will be able to get on base and find the shelves fully stocked.

Starting Jan. 1, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and all service-connected disabled veterans, regardless of rating, as well as caregivers enrolled in the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, will be able to shop at Defense Commissary Agency stores and military exchanges.

They also will have access to revenue-generating Morale, Recreation and Welfare amenities, such as golf courses, recreation areas, theaters, bowling alleys, campgrounds and lodging facilities that are operated by MWR.

Since most new patrons lack the credentials needed to get on military bases, installations will accept the Veteran Health Identification card, or VHID, from disabled and other eligible veterans. For caregivers, the VA plans to issue a memo to eligible shoppers in the coming months, which will be used in conjunction with any picture identification that meets REAL ID Act security requirements, such as a compliant state driver’s license or passport. Please note that all IDs must be unexpired to be accepted.

As a side note, many veterans are not aware that they can already be shopping online through the military exchange.  If you or a loved one are an honorably discharged veteran you can learn more at Veterans Online Shopping Benefit.

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