One of the best and most important ways to express gratitude toward our veterans is by volunteering to help those in need.
There are numerous organizations that provide opportunities to give of one’s time and effort to help veterans, many of which are housed under one umbrella.
World War II Gen. Omar Bradley created the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1946. Bradley’s vision was to coordinate the efforts of various veterans’ service organizations under one banner to provide more consistent aid to veterans in need.
Before VAVS, aid to veterans had been given by “well-meaning, but spontaneous volunteer efforts,” a video on the VA website stated. Bradley invited members of the USO, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and V.F.W., among others, to join with the VA in the coordination of the VAVF, which would serve as a nationwide volunteer organization, the video stated.
The VAVF has a national oversight committee as well as local advisory boards, which coordinate care in areas such as medical and social services, nursing and more, the VA website stated. There are more than 50 VAVS advisory committees nationwide, organizing more than 61,000 volunteers and more than 9 million volunteer hours as of 2019.
The VA also has a student volunteer program, which aims to help provide them with valuable experience and training for their future career. The James H. Parke Memorial Youth Scholarship Award provides scholarship opportunities to students who volunteer at VA medical centers. Student volunteers serve as liaisons with their communities as they help provide care for Veterans, according to a release on the VA’s website.
Volunteers can also help by providing transportation for veterans to VA facilities to receive treatment. The VA’s Volunteer Transportation Network was created after funding challenges to the DVA’s Beneficial Travel Program forced the need for volunteer-owned transportation. VTN guidelines permit volunteer participation using a volunteer’s vehicle or one that is government-owned, including donated vehicles, county vehicles, DAV Department (State) or Chapter (local) vehicles, public transportation and contracted transportation, according to the VA Center for Development and Civic Engagement.
Through the VAVS website, prospective volunteers can submit a request to donate their time or money to a particular VA facility. You can also learn more about the various needs of different facilities using a list provided by VAVS.
Due to the pandemic, the VAVS has revised its protocols used in accepting volunteers and donations. By providing your contact information on the VAVS website, you can learn more about the opportunities to donate by being contacted by a VA representative who can match you with an opportunity best suited to your skills and the needs of the VA.
Another opportunity that has grown in scope due to the pandemic is the VA’s Virtual Volunteer Program. The VA’s Office of Public Affairs’ Digital Media Engagement (DME) team is expanding the Virtual Volunteer program to invite new volunteers to help create content that honors Veterans and helps them learn more about their benefits.
According to an entry on the VA’s Vantage Point Blog, The Virtual Volunteer program is open to currently enrolled college students and college graduates who have skills in various forms of digital content creation, social media management and accessibility.
To apply to join the DME Virtual Volunteer Team, fill out an online form at https://blogs.va.gov/Vantage/. There you can list any skills you have that would be an asset to our digital media team. If those skills match our needs, you will be contacted.
New virtual volunteers need to register with the Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) and will be assigned to VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. Joining the VAVS will include completing any application forms, participating in an initial interview with the VAVS coordinator, and an on-boarding session with VAVS. We will provide you with the forms and help you with this process. Any applicant who successfully completes this process will begin on-boarding as a Virtual Volunteer with the DME team.
Monetary donations are also being accepted online. To donate online, select a state and medical center, then click “Donate Online.” 100 percent of your donation will go toward supporting Veterans and you can even choose which fund your money will support. An immediate confirmation of your donation will be generated with a receipt.
For more information on these programs, visit www.volunteer.va.gov.