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5 Simple Ways You Can Treat Local Veterans Better

Tue, Oct. 03, 2017 Posted: 08:03 AM


Out of all the people in this country, it could be argued that no group of people deserves more respect and goodwill than veterans. Unfortunately, veterans also tend to be treated worse than almost any other group in our nation. Why is this, and how can you make a difference?

Veterans: Mistreated and Neglected

In 2014, a report surfaced that showed at least 40 veterans had died that year while waiting for care at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities in the Phoenix area. That report led to further investigation, which revealed some 120,000 veterans across the country that never got the care they needed. Even more shocking was the revelation that VA employees had been trained to manipulate wait time data internally, to make it appear they were doing a better job than they were.

While it would be nice to say things have been cleaned up since then, this simply isn’t true. The VA is still a mess – even as former President Barrack Obama and current President Donald Trump have attempted to shine a light on the issue.

It could be said that the neglect of veterans has reached a fever pitch. Recent data suggests that an average of 20 veterans take their own lives every single day. In fact, 18 percent of all adult suicides in America involve a veteran.

Then there’s the opioid crisis, which hits veterans harder than most (largely due to the overprescribing of painkillers). Veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental overdoses than ordinary civilians.

On any given night, there are nearly 40,000 homeless veterans living on the streets. Even something as simple as trying to retrieve government documents that are needed to obtain veteran benefits can be a huge chore.

The moral of the story is that veterans are mistreated, neglected, and forgotten – sometimes purposefully and other times inadvertently. But no matter which way you slice it, they deserve far better.

5 Ways to Treat Veterans Better

Better treatment of veterans is a bipartisan issue that people of all social, political, and religious backgrounds can agree on. But if you really want to instigate change, you need to participate.

Here are some tangible ways you can make a difference in your community:

1. Provide Transportation

While it’s up to the VA to provide adequate medical care for veterans, many have trouble even getting to their appointments. Whether they’re incapacitated or don’t have vehicles, you can volunteer to take veterans to and from appointments. It’s a great way to serve them and build relationships.

2. Help Build a Home

Providing safe, affordable, and functional housing for veterans – especially those who suffer from injuries and illnesses – is a huge challenge. Thankfully, organizations like Building Homes for Heroes and Habitat for Humanity help out. There are plenty of ways for you to get involved with these organizations, either by providing financial assistance or time and labor.

3. Donate Frequent Flyer Miles

When veterans are hospitalized, it’s often hard for family members to visit. Once again, you can help out. Through organizations like The Fisher House Foundation – which operates the Hero Miles Program – you can donate unused frequent flier miles to help bring family members to the bedside of wounded or sick veterans.

4. Provide a Job

Some veterans don’t have a lot of practical civilian skills once they leave the military. When combined with physical injuries or mental illnesses, this makes it hard to find a job.

If you are a business owner, or have connections with people who are in the business of hiring, you may be able to help veterans gain employment. Not only does this provide a source of income, but it also gives veterans a sense of purpose and dignity.

5. Connect Veterans

“Researchers have learned that veterans are more likely to share personal information and ask advice about many things, including health care, from fellow veterans,” explains Elisa Borah, who has spent time studying the lives of veterans.

While there are plenty of ways for you to help, one of the best things you can do is connect veterans with other veterans. Whether in a one-on-one setting, or as part of an official veterans group or organization, these peer-to-peer relationships are very important.

Change Starts With You

The government has a responsibility to care for the veterans that help protect it, but as individual citizens, we can’t sit back and wait for lawmakers and politicians to handle this for us. We can vote the right people into office and pressure them to make changes, but it ultimately starts with you and me.

If you want to see veterans treated better, stop watching the news and start doing something. In this article, you’ve been provided with several suggestions. Try one of them this week and start making a difference in the lives of veterans throughout your local community.

Lara Sen