The Veterans Service Organization

The Veterans Service Organization

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

The Veterans Service Organization has long been a part of the American landscape. For many of us, the groups that fall in this particular category have been recognized as cornerstones in our communities for decades. We grew up in their halls, going to all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts in the morning and playing bingo at night.

Some of them host karaoke and trivia nights, while others focus on baseball or dart leagues. By and large, though, they all have a higher purpose that resonates with those of us in the military community…and that’s to serve.

There are many – oh, so many – organizations that seemingly help with Veterans’ causes. A quick Google search of Veterans Service Organizations (VSO, for short) yielded about 156,000,000 results in 1.07 seconds. I don’t mean to imply that there are 156 million such groups, but you’ll probably need to dig a little deeper to really see what your options are.

Most of these organizations compete with each other – for members, for publicity, and for money. It seems they’re all vying for that federal grant, or that private foundation award, or for your hard-earned twenty bucks. Some have a great track record of using those donated dollars wisely, and others not so much, but you’ll have to decide where that ranks for you, when choosing where you should donate your time, talent, or treasure.

So, if you’re looking to connect with one, you’re going to have to wade through more than just the first few pages of your vague online query to find your next VSO home. Narrow your search a bit more…are you looking for one that’s local, regardless of their national footprint, or do you need a group to be Congressionally chartered before you’ll support it? Maybe you’re looking for one (or more) that has someone that can help with processing a VA claim.

If that’s the case, then that’s a whole other search, and an entirely different article. The other VSO is an acronym for Veterans Service Officer, not Veterans Service Organization. A VSO, in that sense of the word, can help you with the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims...and can be worth their weight in gold, if they know what they’re doing. Connect with a good VSO (organization) and they’ll help connect you with a good VSO (officer).

Getting back to your search for the right Veterans Service Organization, a really good place to start is the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2019 Directory of Veterans and Military Service Organizations. Found at va.gov/vso, this particular listing is provided as an informational service and is arranged in five parts: 

  • Part I is a listing of Congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organizations that are also recognized by the Department of VA Office of General Counsel for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of VA claims;
  • Part II is a listing of Veterans Service Organizations that are Congressionally chartered but that are NOT recognized by the VA for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of Veteran’s claims;
  • Part III is a list of Veteran organizations that are not Congressionally chartered but that are officially recognized by the VA for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of Veteran’s claims; 
  • Part IV lists those Veteran organizations that are neither Congressionally chartered nor officially recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the purpose of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of Veteran’s claims, but that represent the interest of American Veterans; and
  • Part V, a section focused on Intergovernmental Affairs and official resources at the state level.

I could take up a lot of digital real estate listing out some of these groups, but I won’t do that here. Just know that most of the organizations you’ve already heard of are on this list, as well as many of the ones you haven’t…from The American Legion, VFW, and DAV, to The Mission Continues and The National Association of Atomic Veterans. If this directory is still a little too much, get in touch with your state’s Department or Commission on Veterans Affairs and let them help you navigate these waters.

So, I challenge you to get involved. Join one or two Veterans Service Organizations whose mission connects with you. Whether you’re joining to start really giving back to the military community, or for the camaraderie and sense of belonging, I think you’ll be glad that you did.

Until next time…

A Veterans Day Salute

A Veterans Day Salute

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing (Lieutenant Colonel, USA Retired)

Greetings, friends. As we commemorate this Veterans Day, it is an honor to be able to visit with you on the Military Connection platform. It is an honor to have worn the uniform of the US Army, as well. I was a Soldier by choice, but an American by the grace of God.

We gather in many places to salute our nation’s Veterans. On the anniversary of Armistice Day, we pause to remember the brave men and women who served, and sometimes died for, our country. We remember the other men & women we’ve served alongside, lifelong friends who have the common bond of enduring hardships, pain, and even loss, as we contributed to something we considered priceless – the defense of our country. I feel privileged and proud to be part of a group that has done so much for so many.

We remember our battalions, our companies, our ships…our bombers, our tanks, and our cannons. We remember our patrols, our deployments…our battles & our homecomings. We remember our friends, our crews, our units – our first haircut, the mess halls, guard duty – we remember voices – shouting, laughing…and the tears. We, the ones that have served this nation, have these images and sounds and feelings burned into our minds, hearts, and souls…

We remember the brave men and women who have served in places such as Antietam, Gettysburg, and San Juan Hill; in the trenches of France, the beaches of Normandy, the deserts of Africa; the jungles of the Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, or Vietnam; the hills of Korea, the sands of Kuwait, the villages of Iraq, and the mountains of Afghanistan. Wherever and whenever our men & women are called to serve, they go.

For those Veterans who have stood guard in peacetime… to those who have seen the terror, the horror and inhumanity of combat — and to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice – our Veterans have always been there, defending the Constitution of the United States of America. The Veterans of our nation have been safeguarding our liberties since before the American Revolution.

On Veterans Day, we remember those who sacrificed at home and overseas. Where it was once specifically a celebration of the silencing of the guns of World War One, Veterans Day now marks a day when nations around the world pause and observe – with solemn, silent pride – the heroism of those who have served, those who are currently serving, and those who died in our country’s service, in that war and in all others. It is not a celebration of victory, but rather, a celebration of those who made victory possible.  It’s a day we keep in our minds the brave men and women of this young nation — generations of them — who above all else believed in, and fought for, a set of ideals.   

Just as our Veterans chose to serve, I challenge & encourage all of you to volunteer your services to any number of endeavors…your school’s PTO, a local food pantry, or your church…the Little League or the high school feeder team’s Football Club. Service to country is very much like service to community.

Our communities are the fabric of our nation, and every one is a little different. From those communities, our Veterans bring those differences to the defense of our nation. Poor or wealthy, urban or rural…they bond together as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. As our Nation’s sword and shield, our Veterans represent the strength and diversity of our nation.

This includes members of the Reserve Component – our Reservists & National Guardsmen. When serving in a traditional role, not federalized or deployed, these men and women are full-time members of the community. They work in your towns, their families attend your schools, and they commit themselves to the protection of your land and defense of your freedoms against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Today’s National Guardsmen and Reservists, from all branches of service, are able to transition from the workforce to the fighting force with speed, grace and resiliency.  In this time of what seems like persistent conflict, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places. I deployed twice while my sons were in elementary school. I remember the heartbreak of leaving my wife and children, but I also vividly remember the joy of coming home after a long deployment.

Those of us that have worn the uniform typically have a variety of reasons for having done so. For many, it’s a sense of Duty-Honor-Country, a belief in freedom, and a faith in America’s future. I think that one of the reasons why I served is that, on occasion, I had the opportunity to be in the presence of greatness…visiting with a Tuskegee Airman at a Missouri Veterans Home, or watching history come alive at the airport at 0400 as WWII Veterans gathered for a trip to see our nation’s memorials in Washington, DC, a part of the Honor Flight network.

So, whether it’s chatting with Veterans from WWII or trading war stories with those fresh from today’s battlefields, sometimes I get to shake the hands of some real heroes. That’s just one of reasons why I served, and why I’m proud…I am proud to be an American; I am proud to be a Veteran.

On Veterans Day, be sure to pause and remember the many Americans who have served. The Veterans of today are writing the history books that you, your children and your children’s children will one day study.  

Thank you for taking the time to commemorate this special day in your own way. God bless our Troops, God bless our Veterans…and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

 

The Military Spouse and Entrepreneurship – Eight Do’s & Don’ts

By Guest Contributor Renee Nickell
 
For 17 years, I had been a stay at home mom and military spouse.  My days consisted of homeschooling my kids, chauffeuring, meal-planning, budgeting, making sure life was stable during TDY’s and deployments, and supporting my husband through three college degrees.  While these things gave me great fulfillment and I loved my role in the family, I had always had dreams of my own.  Our family made a lot of sacrifices for me to stay at home with my children.  Society says you can’t survive on one income and we proved them wrong.
About two years ago, my husband and I really started talking about leaving the corporate world. He was now a reservist and disabled veteran and he wanted to support me in accomplishing my hopes and dreams.  We haven’t gotten to the point of him leaving his job yet, but we are working towards it.  I went full steam ahead and began writing my first non-fiction memoir.  It was published in July 2018 and it was certainly a dream come true.  Since that time, I’ve had to teach myself how to market, grow my tribe, advertise, and everything else that goes along with being a new entrepreneur.
Just two months before I decided to start writing my book, my husband was suddenly told that he would no longer be “fit for duty” until he underwent a medical review board.  This meant our monthly military pay was gone with zero notice!  This was a huge blow for him as a commander and 17-year veteran.  We had to make things work with a sudden drop in income.  This was a huge risk.  It’s been 18 months and still no medical review board, but we are still making it without his military pay.
If you are a military spouse who may be considering starting a new business on a limited budget, I want to give you a list of eight do’s and don’ts that will help you make that decision:
 
1. Don’t rely on the bank account for you to start your business.
Now some may say, “Renee, this is NOT wisdom.  Every business needs cash!”  Well, no they don’t.  How many dreams have been born around a kitchen table?  How many bakeries have started with mixing the flour and sugar in a small home kitchen?  Many businesses now are started on one-income families with small investments.  Start small, but dream BIG!
2. Don’t expect to get rich quick.
With the social media, coaching craze happening right now, all it takes is one look at your timeline to believe you can become an overnight sensation on YouTube and make 6-figures in two months.  It may happen for some, but for most of us, that isn’t realistic.  What is realistic, if that is your goal, is to grow in what you know.  What you don’t know, learn.  Long-term success takes time, energy, knowledge, and patience.  Remember that turtle that was slow and steady?
3. Do plan on working long hours with no pay.
Startup businesses do not start making revenue right away.  Like I mentioned before, I’m 18 months into “the dream”. I haven’t made any profit thus far, but that doesn’t keep me from moving forward.  Your desire to turn “the dream” into a reality MUST be stronger than the desire to get rich quick.  What this has taught me, is that I am showing my children delayed gratification.  They know mom works A LOT, but I am always teaching them that it’s perseverance and hard work that will eventually pay off, not giving up when you see little results (this can go for weight loss or building up savings).
4. Do expect to make sacrifices.
Have you heard those stories of incredibly successful entrepreneurs that have sold everything they own to make their dream a reality?  Yes, I can relate.  When I was publishing my book, my husband would come home from work and wonder where our furniture went.  I’d tell him I had to pay the editor.  This went on for months until we finally put in for a job transfer and sold our home…providing us with funds to market the book.  You will learn to do what you can to make it work.
5. Don’t expect everyone to understand or be supportive.
Let’s face it…no one will be as excited as you about your new venture.  Friends may think you’re crazy or possibly be upset with your new time constraints.  Naysayers may be jealous and Facebookers may get annoyed.  So, what?  Only ONE person needs to believe in your dream…YOU!  You WILL grow your tribe…don’t try to appease everyone (and most of the people on your social media won’t be your tribe, that takes time to grow).  Those that do support you – keep them close.
6. Don’t give up.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your small business.  If you are dedicated to doing what you believe in and you’re aware that building a business takes time, you WILL eventually see results.  I promise.  Hang in there and know that you will have good days and bad days, but the good days make the bad days worth it.
7. Do take the risk.
Maybe it’s because of my life experiences, but life is too short to not take the risk.  I mean, I’m not talking about bungee jumping here.  Sometimes the greatest results happen because of the greatest risks.  Six months after I published my book I wrote my favorite author and asked for an endorsement.  Guess what, she said yes.  I was so scared to ask, but my husband always tells me, “if you don’t ask, your answer will definitely be no, but if you do ask, you may get a yes.”  He would remind me this after all the “no’s” I have gotten.  I still take the risk and it’s really been incredible to see what doors have opened.
8. Do have the time of your life!
Always remember your “why” and enjoy the journey.  It’s truly the journey that you have to learn to appreciate, because that journey never ends.  Make small goals and celebrate when you meet those goals.
 
I hope this insight will help the new entrepreneur.  If you are a military spouse venturing into new territory, know that you can do this.  Remember that incredibly painful deployment when the kids were puking and the roof was leaking and the car broke down and it was still 10 days until payday?  Well, if you can get through that…you can do this.  The military spouse is resilient and strong.  Be encouraged and go out and make your dreams happen!
 
Renee Nickell is a military spouse, Gold Star sibling, and author of “Always My Hero: The Road to Hope & Healing Following My Brother’s Death in Afghanistan.” Renee has been featured on FOX & Friends, The Brian Kilmeade Show, and SOFREP Radio; her mission is to increase awareness of the difficulties that military families face, to better help them endure, recover, and heal.  For more about Renee, go to www.reneenickell.com.

Compelling Reasons: Why Veterans Make Good Franchisees

By guest contributor Chris Coleman
 
If you’ve ever done any research into the franchising environment, you may have noticed that many franchise companies offer Veterans a discount on their initial investment. Why is that? Well, there are a couple reasons why. First, this is a way for many franchisors to say ‘thank you’ for serving. Many of us feel you’ve gone above and beyond to protect our country and secure our freedoms. Second, there’s a general consensus that Veterans typically make great franchisees! Franchisors find that Veterans, with their leadership and teamwork skills and propensity for following a system, make ideal business owners in the franchise space. Let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons why Veterans are so sought after by franchise companies.
You can’t investigate this without first establishing a key finding. For many, that key finding would be the similarities that exist between franchise operations and the order and structure built into military service. We in the franchising industry know that a franchise is successful because the bedrock of its operation depends upon a defined set of principles and procedures that, when replicated, have a high chance of success. Our friends in the military community know that having a defined mission is essential to success; a successful mission, in turn, can usually be replicated, mitigating risk in future operations.
One example of those similarities is training. One of the key advantages of franchising is the amount of training and support that goes into the development of franchisees and their respective franchises. In the military, many of you began with basic training. In a franchise system, you may be required to attend their version of basic training, alongside other new franchise owners. Both are examples of an accelerated learning atmosphere where you’ll ramp up your knowledge of processes and procedures quickly. And we all know that the training doesn’t stop once you graduate from your basic course. The same goes for franchise support systems, all of which make ongoing education, training, and support a key ideological framework.
No discussion about Veterans and franchising would be complete without a reference to teamwork. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “teamwork makes the dream work,” keep in mind that it applies to franchise operations as well as military training and execution. Much of our military organizational framework is built around groups and teams of men and women – troops, squads, platoons, regiments, divisions, and so on. Franchises rely on the same framework, the same type of top-down leadership as the military, to ensure the success of their operations.
The remaining similarities are no less obvious. The ability to thrive under pressure is a suitable quality in both a Veteran and a franchise owner…neither are strangers to long hours, hard work, and a payoff for effort at the end of the day. Lastly, discipline will always win the day…the military and our Veterans depend upon it and strong franchise brands demand it. In some sense, we can actually tie teamwork and discipline together – successful teams tend to have some sort of accountability structure in place and good franchise companies facilitate accountability groups throughout their system to encourage franchise owners to be all that they can be.
There are plenty of statistics that speak volumes about Veterans and small business ownership. From 2012 U.S. Census Bureau and Small Business Administration information, data suggests that approximately 2.5 million businesses – nearly 9.1% – were Veteran-owned. Within the small business ‘space’, franchising itself is a successful business platform for many Armed Forces Personnel – Veterans, Family members, National Guard & Reserve, and even Service Members on active duty. Many reports detail that approximately one in seven U.S. franchises is owned by Veterans. Did you catch that? One in seven franchises is owned by a Veteran! There must be a compelling reason for that statistic…
While there are a lot of synergies between franchises and the military, researching the nearly 3,600 franchise concepts can be tricky. If you or someone you know is a member of the military community looking to establish a business foothold in civilian life, I recommend connecting with a local franchise consultant to help navigate those waters. And don’t forget what they say – ‘teamwork makes the dream work’…
 
Chris Coleman is a second-generation franchise consultant & a franchise owner with over 20 years’ experience in the industry. He and his team provide no-cost consultations to individuals seeking business ownership opportunities. Chris currently owns franchise territory in 4 states, sits on the Board of Directors for FranNet, and serves as Vice-Chair of FranNet’s Franchise Advisory Council.  Connect with Chris on LinkedIn here or visit FranNet.com for more information on franchising.
Do you have any experiences you’d like to share about your military-to-civilian transition? Anything that might benefit others in our military community, facing the same challenges? If so, email [email protected] and tell us your story…

Six Tips to a Top-Shelf Business Plan

By guest contributor Will Katz
 
It has been my honor and pleasure to work with many veterans who have started small businesses. Over the years, I’ve noticed that people with military experience tend to be excellent entrepreneurs. Why would that be the case? Well, I don’t know this for certain, but I would imagine that the careers of most military personnel revolve around 1) creating a plan, and 2) executing that plan.
Perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that entrepreneurship generally follows a similar roadmap. Entrepreneurs also create a plan, then execute that plan. With that in mind, here are six key points for anybody embarking on the process of business planning:
Begin with the end in mind. You might recognize this as Habit 2 of Dr. Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is always a good habit, but especially so when it comes to business planning.
Of course, it may be somewhat challenging. If you have never written a business plan, the odds are that you have also not seen a wide variety of business plans. If you have not seen a lot of business plans, it may be difficult to envision what your completed plan might look like.
You should ask your network of peers and advisors if they might be able to share some business plan samples with you. If your personal network doesn’t include people who are well-versed in the business planning process, use this as an opportunity to expand that network a little bit. I would recommend that you begin your journey by attempting to read and review at least ten business plans. This will give you a baseline.
Beware of search engine results. Sure, you could type “business plans” into your favorite search engine.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait…I can tell you what you are going to get back. You will see all kinds of specialty business plan-writing products that will cost you anywhere from $79.99 to about $1,200. Search engines are wonderful, and I frequently wonder how I managed to get by without the ability to find out what time the nearest pizza restaurant closes. But when it comes to complex topics like business planning, I’m not sure that search engines are your best friend.
When it comes to business plans, results with high placement are often placed in your results feed because companies who sell these tools pay for that placement. Their job is to give you “business plan envy”. They want you to feel like you couldn’t possibly do this without them. They want you to think the business planning process is more confusing or more exacting than it really is.
There is no magic format. Believe it or not, there is no magic in how you lay out the sections of your business plan. I’ve seen great business plans with 4-5 sections, and I’ve seen great business plans with 12-14 sections. I’ve seen business plans funded for millions of dollars that were 4 pages long. I’ve also seen plans of every shape and size that were lacking in critical content.
I spent several years working with an aspiring pre-venture entrepreneur who was convinced that there was a magic business plan format. He created a plan and he sent that plan to dozens of potential funding sources.  Each recipient of the plan pointed to some issue or issues, and many of them pointed to different problems.  Every time he received a response, he passed it on to me with a note, making sure to tell me that he was unhappy that I didn’t see the issue ahead of the rejection!
In this case, my belief was (and still is) that the plan didn’t correctly identify a problem and his corresponding solution. The business notion underlying your business plan is always the main issue. But his belief was simply that if he wrote the “perfect” business plan, regardless of the underlying facts, he would get millions of dollars in funding.  (Hint: it doesn’t really work that way!)
Especially if you are in the earliest stages, it will benefit you to think of your business plan along the lines of a simple feasibility analysis. The simple act of viewing your concept and your business idea from that 10,000-foot perspective may well be revolutionary for you. Shoot for maybe 5 or 6 sections, each section being one page.  You may be surprised at how far that will lead you.
Research is key. There are a lot of different types of research that might go into a business plan. Foremost among those types of research, I would say, is “secondary” market research.
When it comes to market research, “primary” market research relates to the questions you ask customers and/or potential customers. “Would you buy this?” “How much would you pay?” “What should we call it?” It’s not that these are bad questions, but for most entrepreneurs, it is exceedingly difficult to design the right survey tools and get outside of your comfort zone far enough to ask them to people who will give you unbiased answers.
“Secondary” market research relates to existing sources of information that answer questions one might have.  If your business idea is related to after-market car parts, it would be helpful to know how many cars are registered in your metro area. If you are planning to open a nail salon, wouldn’t you like to know how many people in the area have received pedicures in the last six months? (Believe it or not, this is a question that could be answered!)
There are some amazing tools for research out there if you know where to look. Some are free to use, but some are not. Again, it is always a good idea to expand your personal network to help you learn what you know and what you don’t know. If you don’t know any librarians, it might be worth your time to meet one! I’m a big fan of the US Census Bureau tools (https://www.census.gov/smallbusiness/), as well as industry reporting from places like IBISWorld, Cengage, and First Research.
Be specific in your statement of purpose. Yes, you should be as specific as possible in all aspects of business planning. But the reference here is to the purpose for your actual plan.  I always like to see a sentence in the first couple of paragraphs that starts like this: “The purpose for this plan is….”
Maybe the purpose is to find a bank loan for 50% of the $100,000 you need. Maybe you are looking for early-stage investors among family and friends. Maybe you are simply putting together a document that will keep you on track as you develop ideas and one that will provide you with direction as you move forward. Whatever the reason is, put it in the plan.
Necessary, but not sufficient by itself. I’m certain that no battles have ever been won by planning unless the planning was backed up by robust action. Know that it will be the same way with your business. Planning alone will never compete with planning AND execution.  In your military career, how many of your plans survived first contact with the enemy? Probably not very many! The same will be true of your entrepreneurial pursuits. It’s great to have a plan. In fact, it’s critically important to have a plan.
Just be prepared to deviate from that plan when the situation calls for it!
 
Will Katz, MBA, CVA is a Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) and Accredited Business Planning Advisor (ABPA) specializing in valuation support for SBA lending. Will is also Director of the Small Business Development Center at the University of Kansas, where he helps entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Will has worked with more than 1500 business clients, including hundreds of military Veterans in the Ft. Leavenworth area. Connect with Will Katz on LinkedIn here
 
Do you have any experiences you’d like to share about your small business planning process or military-to-civilian transition? Anything that might benefit others in our military community, facing the same challenges? If so, email [email protected] and tell us your story…

VA Benefits: Some Common Barriers for Veterans

Obtaining your VA Benefits can sometimes be a slow and arduous process. There are more than 12 million Veterans over the age of 65. These Veterans, who have served in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and to Iraq and Afghanistan, are often battling for the benefits they deserve and many times have to fight to get. While we can all agree that Veterans shouldn’t have to fight for the benefits they rightfully deserve, understanding their struggles can better help to solve this ongoing issue.
One of the biggest barriers to receiving benefits is the lack of necessary proof for the Veteran. A Veteran must provide proof of their current disability and demonstrate the medical link between their disability and their service time. For some, this link is easier to prove than others. Combat injuries that are well documented within a soldier’s service record are easy to prove. However, for servicemembers who face a disability years after they have served, the causal link is much more difficult to prove.
In addition to proving the link between the current disability and the decades-old injury that caused it, Veterans need detailed statements as to how the disability has negatively impacted their lives. Private medical records, VA medical records, and statements from family, friends and any other medical and social work providers can help. Proving the severity of the disability can be a long process with many necessary and frustrating steps along the way.
For many veterans, the struggle begins with actually obtaining service records. In 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) destroyed most of the records collected prior to that point. The VA is required to assist Veterans in finding and obtaining their service records, but Veterans might be able to speed up the process if they are able to ensure that all locations have been notified of the need.
In addition to the NPRC, Veterans can also contact The United States Army and Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRC), the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), and the Naval Historical Center. JSRRC specializes in supporting Veterans who need to prove PTSD and Agent Orange claims. NARA stores the official records to all those who were discharged from the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The Naval Historical Center houses deck logs and ship histories, which might prove critical when attempting to substantiate an Agent Orange claim.
When all else fails, buddy statements can serve as evidence of service time and injury. However, even this is not without difficulty. Elderly servicemembers might not be able to connect with their service buddies for a variety of reasons.
Once a Veteran has obtained the necessary proof, there is still an incredible backlog to actually obtain benefits. In many cases, the backlog is more than two years. Additionally, the Board of Veterans Appeals has a three-year backlog.
In many of these cases, time is not a luxury. These veterans are sick and aging. It is estimated that around 3,000 Veterans die each year while waiting for their disability benefits.

Aging Gracefully in the VA: Collecting Disability Benefits in Your Golden Years

Aging Gracefully in the VA: Collecting Disability Benefits in Your Golden Years
Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
There are over 76 million baby boomers in the United States. Over 10 million of those baby boomers are Veterans. When you include the Silent and Greatest Generations, you are looking at nearly 15 million Veterans who have reached retirement age and may be in need of senior services beyond just a customary discount.
Senior Veterans have an increased likelihood to not utilize their VA benefits to their full extent. In many cases, seniors might not actually even be aware of the benefits for which they are eligible. The underutilized benefits begin with compensation. Most elderly veterans are entitled to receive compensation above and beyond the service-related compensation. In fact, there are a variety of health care programs that are actually common benefits for those who might need them.
Did you know that Elderly Veterans are entitled to Aid and Attendance? This is a program available for veterans who need help with basic daily functions. Bed-ridden, blind, nursing home Veterans can all enlist the help of an attendant to assist with their daily needs. Housebound Veterans who are unable to leave their home as a result of their disability are also eligible for similar services. Adult Day Health Care can also be life changing to elderly Veterans in need. As we age, our needs change, and Adult Day Health Care helps address and fulfill many of those needs. From companionship to recreational activity and care from therapists to nurses, the care provided might literally be life changing.
When health care needs go beyond the scope of companionship, Home Based Primary Care might be the route a family would want to take. This program brings a VA doctor into the home of the Veteran. That VA doctor will supervise an entire team that will meet and perform services within the home. This option is for veterans with health issues that are beyond the scope of care that can be provided by a clinic. Homemaker and Home Health Aides are available as well to help with daily care. This service would be customized for a Veteran who requires daily living assistance.
As age and illnesses progress, more intense services may be required to fully assist in the patient’s care. Palliative Care tends to those needs with the goal of managing pain, suffering, and symptoms. Palliative Care comes into work with the veteran and their families to evaluate the needs of the patient and put a plan into place that will best control a patient’s symptoms. When a patient is given less than six months to live, Veterans are eligible to receive Hospice Care.
Veterans that are confined to their home or live too great of a distance from their local VA are eligible for Skilled Home Health Care. The VA contracts with a local provider to ensure the needs of the Veteran are appropriately met. The care doesn’t end with the Veteran. The VA understands that the family of a Veteran can get worn out as well. Respite Care comes in to give the family of the elderly or infirmed Veteran a break from their day-to-day responsibilities and work.
The VA is aware that different cases require different solutions. Telehealth gives nurses and doctors access to monitoring equipment so that a veteran can stay in their own home while still receiving care. Veteran Directed Care provides case management and allows a Veteran and family to completely customize a health care plan to ensure their needs are being met. This might include skilled in-home services, daily assistance or medical needs.
Our Veterans are aging with every passing day. As their need for care increases, it is likely that the types of care provided will increase as well. For now, however, the list of care options is fairly comprehensive and many of the options will help address those needs.