The Growing Role of Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs)
National issues can deeply divide a country. The economy, healthcare and national security each cause political gridlock. The debate over these broader policies has specific effects on subjects most of us agree on.
Providing adequate care for wounded veterans is a cause that nearly all politicians and citizens voice their support for. However, how services are delivered to vets and the budgets available to provide care remain in question.
Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) play an important role in helping returning soldiers transition to daily life. VSOs provide programs specific to the needs of military families. This includes the unique physical and emotional aspects of combat related experience.
Here are ways that VSOs offer common benefits for different vets:
As more vets return home, shortfalls in care could become more severe. Healthcare beyond the V.A. will likely be needed for returning soldiers. A new deal that gives vets access to Medicare doctors and government healthcare programs was just approved.
There are unique physical and emotional aspects to combat related injuries. How limbs, sight or hearing were lost is also a critical part of recovery. The trauma of injuries from gunfire or bomb blasts affects emotional health as well.
VSOs offer custom options for military families. These include:
Service Dogs: Assistance dogs help wounded veterans on several levels. A guide dog helps soldiers who have lost their sight while hearing dogs serve as the ears for deaf soldiers. The trust of a PTSD service dog gives assurance to soldiers dealing with anxieties.
Car horns, standing in line or shouts across a room are daily noises that cause anxiety for some vets. VSOs select service dogs for their ability to provide physical and emotional support for injured veterans.
Multiple VSOs provide or help veterans find service dogs. This includes national and local organizations. The Los Angeles branch of Hounds for Heroes 1 is a recent example of local support for vets with national resources.
Adaptive Sports:The loss of mobility is a profound change for injured soldiers. Adaptive sports, such as sled hockey, track and surfing, all help wounded vets regain an active lifestyle. These meetups also restore the camaraderie that many vets miss when returning home. Many VSOs team with hospitals to improve injury recovery. Warfighter Sports 2 is a group that works with military hospitals through over 100 local chapters.
A changing economy affects the job prospects of some returning vets, who have not had the time to learn newly in demand skills. Physical injuries, PTSD and other trauma may also limit an injured vet’s job search.
Skills Training: Education and skills programs for wounded vets helps narrow the gap. These programs are tailored to military veterans of all abilities, whether injured or not. VSOs provide most, if not all services, free of cost to veterans. The support system of other soldiers helps overcome past and present academic hurdles.
Wounded Warrior Project features the TRACK Project, which brings vets to Jacksonville or San Antonio for a 12 month curriculum. Job and life skills are taught, along with internships at local employers to gain work experience.
Job Placement: Many VSOs build a network of companies eager to hire returning soldiers. To prepare for interviews, vets learn to communicate how their military training has value for employers. Vets also get help crafting an effective resume that links their military experience with civilian jobs.
Changes in Military Goals and National Security:
Since national security threats are dynamic, how and where soldiers are needed quickly changes. Many military members have been stationed on multiple fronts. Veterans Services may have trouble adapting to changing military climates.
Conversely, smaller VSOs can quickly shift resources to meet changing needs. For instance, basic toiletries for departing soldiers or personal care packets for returning vets in military hospitals. The nature of the conflict may also affect what type of support is needed.
Veterans care is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘how’. The recent controversy over V.A. care will spark more reforms. Whatever the changes, VSOs will play a role in supporting wounded veterans.
(1) Founded with support from Elliott Broidy, the Los Angeles office of Hounds of Heroes matches services dogs with wounded veterans.
(2) Warfighter Sports is a program of Disabled Sports USA.
Brittany Deatherage , WWP / Wounded Warrior Project