What Donors and Charities are Doing
While not exhaustive, this list outlines many of the major areas where veterans and servicemembers have needs that can be addressed through philanthropy.
The examples of donors and charities should not be treated as at all compre- hensive, nor as an endorsement, but rather as a starting point for understanding the range of funders and service providers active in this field.
For ease of comparison, the list’s pages are set up to mirror the list that follows: What the Federal Government Provides. Both lists are organized by the same topics at the top of each page, and the same need categories down the left side of the page.That will allow you to quickly compare the existing private and public footprints in every area as you plan your own philanthropy.
Overall, the unemployment rate for veterans is about 2 percentage points higher than for others—10 percent versus 8 percent in 2012. (The gap is wider among the young.) Many donors and charities are now focusing on closing that differential. For instance, since 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring our Heroes program has held more than 400 employment fairs for veterans and servicemembers, resulting in 14,100 job placements. Corporate philanthropies have been particularly effective in linking vets to jobs. Many companies are finding that hiring veterans can be good for the firm as well as for society, and especially useful for filling skilled positions that would otherwise lack adequate candidates. Training veterans, matching them to work openings, and mentoring them so they succeed are the main things philanthropists are concentrating on at present.
There are charities that focus on educating the children of the fallen and other specialized groups, but thanks to today’s rich G.I. Bill, college tuition is not an obstacle for most veterans. Staying on task until a degree is completed, however, is sometimes an issue. A typical veteran on campus today is 5–10 years older than the average college student. He or she often has a family. So making the social adjustment to college, getting appropriate mentoring from campus authorities, financing the interstitial periods between semesters, and staying in school and finishing a diploma are the toughest hurdles. Very recently, some smart donors, charities, and colleges have begun to understand and solve these issues.
Some of today’s most heartfelt private help for servicemembers and veterans is being offered to nurse the injured back to health. Philanthropists have found important niches where they can make crucial enhancements in the treatment provided by the government. The universe of severely injured individuals is limited—less than 15,000 of the 2.4 million Americans who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan were hurt seriously enough to be evacuated from the theater. Thus, dedicated philanthropic efforts can have noticeable and lasting effects. Listed below are examples of the range of services now being offered. Not all of these are strictly medical. Programs that help rehabilitate wounded vets by involving them in “adaptive sports” and outdoor activities like bike racing, mountain climbing, and fishing have proven popular with donors and veterans alike.
Private counseling services outside the official clinics run by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are valued by veterans and members of the military because of the special privacy often desired for mental-health care. Also, family members of National Guard and Reserve and veterans are generally not covered at public clinics, though they can be stressed by overseas deployments and by combat injuries just as the servicemembers themselves are. So there are many opportunities for philanthropy to provide enlightened mental-health services, research, and support, which are likely to be priorities for charities and donors for some years to come.
Family and Community
Community services of the sort that philanthropists have long supported can be very helpful to veterans and their families as they transition to civilian life.The possibilities for philanthropists here are wide: everything from programs that support caregivers to bereavement services, from efforts that enhance the education provided for military children to various fraternal organizations offering veterans personal support, sporting challenges, and social life.