Table of Contents
- Veteran Support Groups
- Online Veteran Support Groups
- Other Resources for Veterans
- Veterans Who Help Veterans Programs
- Resources for Caregivers of Veterans
- Getting Help When You Need It
Veterans don’t just have to rely on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to support them post-combat or as they retire and age. In fact, both private and public organizations across the nation offer support to vets and their families. Some provide extra benefits and services at low or no cost to active and former service members; others provide locations where vets can meet with each other or take part in professionally led support groups. Here’s a comprehensive look at resources and support groups for veterans.
Veteran Support Groups
Since 1919, the American Legion has served wartime veterans in a variety of ways. It has local chapters across the country and provides youth mentoring programs, help with seeking benefits, an education center, a health center, and a career center to help vets returning from war or retiring from the service to find employment. The American Legion partners with other organizations, such as the United Services Automobile Association, to provide financial products especially for its members.
Veterans who meet membership requirements can join the American Legion via their website or by contacting a local office. Membership requires that a vet served federal active duty during a war era, which includes:
- April 6, 1917 through November 11, 1918
- December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
- June 25, 1950 through January 31, 1955
- February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975
- August 24, 1982 through July 31, 1984
- December 20, 1989 through January 31, 1990
- August 2 1990 through current day (as of March 2018)
Vets must also have been honorably discharged or still be serving to join the American Legion.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
The ADAA provides information and resource links for individuals struggling with anxiety or depression. Its website includes a number of articles on mental health topics and can help veterans and their families understand the symptoms associated with each. It also provides a directory of therapists and links to other organizations that veterans and families may find beneficial.
PTSD Foundation of America
The PTSD Foundation exists to combat the impact of post-traumatic stress. It provides some counseling and networking services for veterans, but it also works to raise awareness about PTSD so that families are better prepared to deal with it. The foundation supports a number of programs, including Camp Hope and Warrior Groups. It also works with individuals and organizations across the nation to set up one-on-one mentoring and larger support groups to help vets and families navigate and deal with PTSD.
Sidran Institute Help Desk
The Sidran Institute publishes research, articles, and support information online for anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. It also offers information for family members of those who are dealing with trauma. Veterans and their families may find some of the articles helpful. The Institute also sponsors a help desk that works via email to link vets and others seeking help with the right resources. It’s not a hotline; you provide contact information via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and someone gets back to you within one week. The Sidran Institute does provide a list of trauma treatment programs and recommends calling a service such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK for emergency needs.
Vet Center Program
The Vet Center Program provides counseling and support for vets adjusting to civilian life after returning home from war. The program is present in cities throughout the nation and serves veterans who served in any combat zone. Services provided by the program include, but aren’t limited to:
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Family counseling
- Sexual trauma counseling
- Substance abuse assessment and referral for treatment if necessary
- Explanation and help with VA benefits
- Some medical screenings and referrals
To benefit from services through the Vet Center Program, vets must meet one or more requirement(s):
- Served in an area of hostility or combat theater
- Experienced sexual trauma as a result of military service
- Have provided direct care or death services to other individuals while serving in active duty
- Served on a team providing unmanned aerial vehicles to combat zones
- Be a Vietnam vet who has previously accessed the center prior to January 1, 2004
Online Veteran Support Groups
Facebook Support Groups
Facebook groups offer an easy way to connect to like-minded individuals across the globe. You can connect, talk with, seek support from and give support to other vets and family members right from your social media account. Make sure you understand what the privacy settings in the group are, though; some groups are closed, which means only people allowed by the moderator in the group can see what you post. Others are open, which means anyone can see what you share.
Some Facebook groups that might be of interest to veterans and their families include:
- PTSD Survivors of America
- The Caregiver Space
- The Women of Our Vietnam Vets — The Silent Warriors
- The Women Behind the Warriors
PTSD Coach App
The PTSD Coach mobile app is provided in part by the VA. It includes resources about PTSD, including articles on identifying and working through PTSD alongside professional medical and therapeutic providers. The app also includes a self-assessment vets can take to measure their PTSD and links to help vets and family members find support. The app is available for download on:
Vet Friends is an online search site that helps veterans reconnect with friends from their days in the military. Even spouses or other family members can search for vets who were close to their loved ones, and the site covers individuals in a variety of service including military retirees, active duty, and ROTC. Around 1.8 million vets have joined, but you do have to join if you want to be searchable within their database. You can join here; basic membership is free, though premium services are offered at a cost.
Other Resources for Veterans
Coaching Into Care
Coaching Into Care is a program of the VA. It provides mentoring and guidance for family members and others who are seeking benefits, care, and other services for veterans. The coaching is provided free of charge to family members via 10- to 30-minute phone calls. Families can call Coaching Into Care from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST on weekdays at (888) 823-7458.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
This organization reaches out to and empowers younger vets — specifically those who served post-9/11. IAVA membership is open to “all veterans, families and civilian allies,” and there are no dues. While membership is free, the advocacy organization relies on donations and fundraising efforts to support its work in helping vets unite in the community.
National Resource Directory
The National Resource Directory is a website that specializes in providing vets who are wounded or ill with links to organizations that might be able to serve them. The site is fairly comprehensive, so new visitors might want to start with the How To Use This Site page. Information on the site includes, but isn’t limited to, subjects such as:
- Family support
- Military adaptive sports programs
- Transportation and travel
- Homeless assistance
Veterans Crisis Line
The Veterans Crisis Line is a single point of contact vets or families can call during a moment of crisis. Veterans in need or family members can call 1 (800) 273-8255 and press 1 to talk to someone, but they can also send a text message to 838255 or chat online with someone. Trained reps at the Veterans Crisis Line help those in need connect with the right resources and services.
Veterans Resource Centers of America
Veterans Resource Centers offers a variety of programs to serve the unique needs of vets and their families. They work with homeless vets through re-housing programs, offer transitional housing for those returning from combat zones, and help veterans find employment, among many other things. Vets can visit their site for information about nutrition services, housing, behavioral health treatment, and other resources. The actual centers are located throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona.
Veterans Who Help Veterans Programs
Lifeline for Vets
Lifeline for Vets is a vet-to-vet assistance program. Vets staff hotlines, chats, and texts to provide support to other vets who are in need. Veterans who need to talk to someone, want to find out about support opportunities, or feel like they are in crisis right now can call (888) 777-4443 or request assistance online.
VA Peer Specialist and Peer Support Apprentice
Peer Specialists and Support Apprentices are veterans who have mental health or co-occurring conditions, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or substance abuse disorder. They have undergone treatment and are living a life in recovery from their condition, and they want to reach out to fellow veterans and help them do the same. Peer Specialists are trained and certified to provide assistance. Support Apprentices are not certified, but they are trained and do have real-world experience to offer. Vets who are interested in participating in the Peer program can find out more on the VA’s website.
Resources for Caregivers of Veterans
NAMI Caregiver Support
The National Alliance on Mental Health has a section for family members and caregivers of those who are suffering from mental health disorders. Caregivers of vets may find this information helpful, particularly if their loved one is dealing with PTSD, anxiety, or depression. The site also lets you search for local NAMI resources and provides a hotline for this in crisis, which is 800-950-NAMI.
National Military Family Association
NMFA acts as a voice and network for military families. It works with federal and state lawmakers in an effort to protect the interests of military families, but it also supports events and programs that benefit the family and children of veterans. Some types of programs the organization offers include scholarships, family retreats, and camps for kids. Interested family members can find out more at the NMFA website.
Military and Veteran Caregiver Network
This network is designed for caregivers of veterans. You can join the network to connect with others or find a mentor that can help guide you through seeking benefits, finding resources for your loved one, and dealing with the day-to-day tasks of a caregiver. The site also lets you search for local and online support groups.
VA Caregiver Support Line
The VA offers a special support line for caregivers of veterans. You can call this line if you’re struggling to find the right resources to help your vet or if you simply need to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through. The phone number is (855) 260-3274, and caregivers can find more information at the VA’s site.
Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension
If a veteran and/or a vet’s surviving spouse need assisted living care, the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension program can help reduce the total cost to vets and their families. A single veteran who qualifies for the program can receive up to $1,794 in benefit coverage per month. Eligibility requirements are that someone served for at least 90 active duty days, with at least one of those days beginning or ending during a period of war. A surviving spouse of a vet who meets these requirements is also eligible.
The vet must also meet medical qualifications for requiring assisted living. That means that the vet or his or her spouse is unable to handle daily activities of living without assistance from another person. The vet must also have less than $80,000 in assets to qualify for the program.
To apply, vets and family must gather documents and complete the appropriate VA form. Documents and the form should be mailed to the correct regional office. The Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension program provides a list of required documents, links to the VA forms, and a list of addresses on its site.
Getting Help When You Need It
Hundreds — possibility even thousands — of benefits, programs, groups, and hotlines are available to veterans and their families. This guide provides links to some of the most well-known, and we hope that you will use some of these links if you or a loved one are in need. Whether you’re a veteran who is confused about how to seek benefits, you’re dealing with a mental health crisis, or you’re a caregiver who simply needs a little outside support, these resources can help you connect with the right agencies and people.