The information on this page was provided by Kelli Brewer of deploycare.org as a service to our veterans.
Photo courtesy of Burst
Most people have a service member or veteran in their lives, whether a friend who’s currently serving or a loved one who’s a war hero. Pew Research reports the veteran population is growing in diversity, representing tens of millions of Americans. These brave souls risk their lives for the freedom of others, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice for the good of our country. Although public holidays honor our vets, you might be wondering how you can do more to help them.
Here are some ways to assist our country’s service members, veterans, and their families:
Getting to Know Healthcare
VA insurance and Medicare offer their own sets of benefits, but senior veterans with both policies may be confused about the differences between the two. Furthermore, those who aren’t familiar with the differences may stop thinking about their healthcare needs altogether. If you know someone with both VA and Medicare, help them learn what’s covered by each insurance. One helpful thing to keep in mind is that they don’t overlap; if a senior veteran needs to visit a hospital or medical facility, certain ones are covered by VA, while civilian ones are covered by Medicare. By getting to know their coverage, senior veterans can take comfort in knowing that having both VA and Medicare expands their options for receiving the care they need. Veterans can get additional coverage by signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan. For example, UnitedHealthcare offers Advantage plans that can cover prescriptions, dental and vision care, and fitness programs.
Substance abuse is heartbreakingly common among our nation’s military vets. Addiction is on the rise, despite the VA’s multiple attempts to stop the concerning trend. Even worse, studies have shown that addiction causes one in three veteran suicide attempts. Although some veterans abuse alcohol and illegal drugs, our nation’s opioid epidemic means that many vets are now abusing prescription medications. Life expectancies are decreasing, according to Time magazine, and tens of thousands of Americans are dying each year.
Prescription drug abuse is challenging to diagnose, especially among seniors. Warning signs include:
- Mood swings, such as feeling unusually sad, withdrawn, angry, abusive, or irritable.
- Personality changes, which are out of character and not linked to any obvious cause.
- Cognitive changes, such as confusion, memory loss, impaired judgment, or forgetfulness.
- Lying and sneakiness, such as avoiding eye contact, hiding medications or storing “extra” pills for later.
If you’re worried that a loved one may be abusing prescription drugs, contact a doctor for diagnosis, counseling, and assistance. Luckily, many substance abuse services are covered by the VA as well as Medicare. Getting proper addiction treatment helps the veteran, and their loved ones.
If improving our veterans’ lives is your passion, you can make a bigger difference by pursuing a career in social work. Social workers connect our veterans with valuable resources to help them meet their needs, whether through the VA or within their local communities. Whether a veteran is experiencing addiction, trauma, or difficult emotions, social workers can help.
Most professional social workers complete a Master’s of Social Work program. These programs, which are offered by many U.S. universities, usually require extensive training, including 900 to 1,200 hours of fieldwork. As a social worker, you’ll help veterans transition to civilian life.
Whether due to low income, disability, joblessness, or a variety of other reasons, many of our veterans and their families experience food insecurity and require supplemental food assistance. You can do your part to help fight hunger by donating food to a food drive, or even volunteering your time with a local food bank. Another way you can help is by mindfully choosing to shop at companies that support our vets. Many companies like Walmart and Home Depot hold food drives or make donations to veterans in need.
Coping with PTSD
Due to the trauma associated with combat,
veterans are more likely than the general population to develop post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD). As many as one in three veterans have PTSD due to events
they’ve witnessed and experienced. Even those who didn’t develop PTSD are
likely to be grieving the loss of someone they knew, possibly even a close
friend. If you know a veteran with PTSD, make a point to educate yourself on
this disorder. Do your best to be supportive however you can, and always let
your loved one take the lead. Avoid pressuring them into talking about their
experiences, and be patient. Oftentimes, just your presence can be enough.
Our veterans and military service members sacrifice a lot for us. Finding ways to assist them is the least we can do. By helping our vets and their families, we form a stronger, more compassionate, and unified nation. By volunteering time, donating money, or even changing careers, you can do your part to help veterans on a grander scale. Remember, if you suspect drug abuse, addiction, mental illness, or suicidal thoughts, it’s always best to contact a medical professional. After all, our veterans risked their lives for you and your efforts could help save theirs.