Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) are an integral part of our local communities. Many people think of a VSO as just a place where older men hang out to drink and smoke, but that is not the case. Yes, some do serve alcohol, but the extent of what a VSO offers is so much more than that. There is a lot of good that comes out of joining a VSO for a number of reasons.
What is a Veteran Service Organization?
A VSO exists to support, assist, and raise awareness for veterans and related issues. They can help veterans with claims and benefits, counseling, raise funds, and have many other programs. There are many different VSOs so that each organization may offer something different for their members.
Some may also deal with political work on behalf of veterans for new or improved legislation. VSOs are typically private organizations, but there are some that are federally chartered as well.
Why Should You Join a VSO?
Joining a VSO is easy once you find the right one for you and your family. There is much to benefit from by joining your local chapter or post. The main reasons why you should join a Veteran Service Organization can be summed up in three points.
1. Access to Resources and Information
Veteran Service Organizations were formed by veterans, for veterans (and their dependents). The main focus of a VSO is to make it easier and more accessible for a veteran to get the help they need. The majority of VSOs help with claims and benefits, help find employment, legal advice, financial need grants, caregiver support, scholarships, and more. There are hundreds of VSOs in the country; some are specific to one area.
A VSO is the greatest go-to source to find out all the latest news in the military and veteran communities. They work hard to keep information and resources up-to-date. Many VSOs have newsletters, meetings, social media pages, guidebooks, and other forms of media for easily accessible and updatedinformation.
Most VSOs have counselors and financial advisors as well. To sum it up, a VSO is an ideal place to learn about and become more educated about the services available for veterans and their families.
2. You Are Not Alone
Arguably the best aspect of a VSO is the people. It is a place where men, women, and families can come together to share camaraderie and enjoy themselves. The design of a VSO is to bring people with a shared background together, whether that be disabled veterans, families struggling while a loved one is overseas, or veterans of a certain war.
It is a place where people can come together and realize they are not alone in their struggles, whatever struggles they may be. It is a perfect opportunity to form lifelong friendships with fellow veterans and their families.
Many VSOs focus on helping veterans returning from war to transition back into civilian life. It can be difficult to leave the mindset of war, especially when dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. It can be very helpful to be around fellow veterans who have gone through the process or are currently going through the process as well. A VSO is a network of veterans working together to help one another, as well as their families.
3. It Brings the Community Together to Make a Change
The majority of VSOs are passionate about helping their local community. There are many types of VSOs, so each one’s outreach will differ. It is common for a VSO to hold local events to raise funds for the VSO to help its veterans or to help a group of local people in need.
Many organizations are also active in politics, to help the military community on a national scale. They help develop and advance new legislation that benefits veterans, active duty members, and their families. Members from a VSO can go to Washington to meet with their representatives to help pass new policies.
What are Some VSOs You Can Join?
There are hundreds of Veteran Service Organizations across the United States for veterans and their family members to join. Every veteran can find a VSO that is specific to their condition and situation. Some of the more popular VSOs include:
The most recognizable and largest veteran organization is the American Legion. There are more than 15,000 posts throughout the country with over two million members. The organization is not only committed to its members, but to the community as well with youth programs, scholarships, athletic programs, and more.
The VFW is another widely recognized organization in the United States. Like the American Legion, the VFW helps provide aid for veterans’ families, local communities, claims and benefits, and more. They have over 6,000 posts worldwide with around two million members.
This organization works with veterans who have been decorated with the Purple Heart. The Purple Heart is solely given to veterans who were wounded or killed in combat by the enemy. The organization works to name and help homeless veterans, assist veterans and their families, process claims and benefits, reward scholarships, help find employment for those with disabilities, and more.
Amvets (American Veterans) is a large, Congressionally-chartered VSO. It has over 1,200 posts throughout the United States with more than 250,000 veterans and families being represented. Amvets is open for any person who has served since WWII, which includes the Guard and Reserve. They help with claims and benefits, getting access to healthcare, finding employment, reward scholarships, offer workshops, and more.
The DAV is focused on improving the lives of disabled veterans and their families. They help any disabled veteran in need of assistance with rides to doctor appointments, file claims,and benefits, find employment, and more. They have more than one million members that span across 1,300 chapters throughout the country.
The PVA is another Congressionally-chartered organization and is focused on helping veterans who have sustained a spinal cord injury or dysfunction. They advocate for disability rights, spinal cord research, health benefits, housing and auto grants (when applicable), help with vocational rehabilitation for employment, file claims and benefits, caregiver support, and more.
What are You Waiting for?
There are no drawbacks to joining and supporting a Veteran Service Organization. Most have a low fee for a lifetime membership or a low annual fee. There are comprehensive lists that name VSOs and their contact information. There is nothing to lose and lots to gain from becoming a part of this special community of veterans.