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Tips: Serving America's Veterans

Each volunteer experience and opportunity to assist your community’s veterans is going to be different. Finding a meaningful and rewarding experience will depend on your own interests and goals. Your first step toward volunteering should be to check with local veterans groups. They may already have projects to join or experts ready to train your team on tasks needed.

A good volunteer team:

  • Meets all the requirements and attends requisite trainings of the veterans organization you are volunteering with.
  • Respects the contributions that veterans and their families have rendered to our country and commits to following through on assignments.
  • Is willing to complete the tasks that are most needed in the local veterans community.
  • Is willing to listen and engage with the veterans community on a meaningful level.
  • Understands the need for privacy and confidentiality with certain tasks that relate to health care, per the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996.

Help veterans access the health services they need:

The Volunteer Transportation Network (VTN) provides rides to veterans seeking health services. Many veterans may live a great distance from a VA hospital, and because so many rely on small fixed incomes, they find that the cost of transportation to a VA hospital is too high. They're left with dire choices that leave them forgoing treatment they need or skimping on other necessities to pay for transportation.

Expectations of VTN volunteers:

  • Adhere to schedule given.
  • Know hours required by assignment.
  • Be adaptable to different assignments given.
  • Be thankful and show appreciation to service members, veterans, and their families.

Requirements for VTN volunteer:

  • Valid driver’s license.
  • Background check.
  • Proof of safe driving record.
  • Proof of liability insurance.
  • VA physical performed at VA expense.
  • Completion of local VA volunteer orientation.
  • Completion of orientation with the office that coordinates transportation (may require a test drive).
  • In some cases, registering as a medical center volunteer may be necessary.

Visit these sites to get connected:

  • Contact your local VA Medical Center and ask to speak with the VA Medical Center's Volunteer Service Office or the Volunteer Service Program Manager. You can also submit this email form to your local VA Medical Center and a local Program Manager will get back to you.
  • Find your local DAV Hospital Service Coordinator and inquire about volunteering.

If driving is not for you, try helping out in these ways:

  • Be a friend at your local VA facility:

Like all medical facilities, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics need volunteers. These volunteers are needed because many hospitalized veterans are disconnected from family or friends, and they are very far from home.

Volunteers perform a wide range of duties. Some enjoy direct contact with patients, participating in recreational programs and other activities on the wards. Other volunteers assist the VA's professional staff in several ways that involve little patient contact. Your role as a volunteer at a VA medical facility can be as basic, and as important, as just being a friend to a patient in the trying days of illness and therapy.

Expectations of VA volunteers:

      • Adhere to the schedule given.
      • Know hours required by assignment.
      • Be adaptable to different assignments given.
      • Be thankful and show appreciation to service members, veterans, and their families.

Requirements for VA volunteers:

      • Requirements to volunteer vary per assignment at the event.
      • Background checks may be required depending upon your assignment.
      • In some cases, registering as a medical center volunteer may be necessary.

Visit this site to get connected:

    • Contact your local VA Medical Center and ask to speak with the VA Medical Center's Voluntary Service Office or the Voluntary Service Program Manager. You can also submit this email form to your local VA Medical Center and a local Program Manager will get back to you.
  • Welcome Home Event:

The number of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) service members and veterans continues to increase. It is imperative that these service members and veterans are fully educated about VA health care services, eligibility, and any potential benefits. This is a special opportunity for the VA to let service members and veterans know that their service to their country is appreciated. To meet these requirements, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) policy states that each VA Medical Center must provide a “Welcome Home” event for OEF/OIF service members and their families and/or significant other.

The "Welcome Home" event is held at least annually for OEF and OIF service members, veterans, and their families and/or significant others. This event provides pertinent information on VA benefits and includes participation by Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) staff; VHA health care services; supportive services for families and/or significant others; and Services of the OEF-OIF Program Manager, Transition Patient Advocates, and OEF-OIF Case Managers.

Costs associated with “Welcome Home” events are funded by the sponsoring VAMC and generous donations from community organizations.

Expectations of “Welcome Home” volunteers:

      • Adhere to schedule given.
      • Know hours required by assignment.
      • Be adaptable to different assignments given.
      • Be thankful and show appreciation to service members, veterans, and their families.

Requirements for “Welcome Home” volunteers:

      • Requirements to volunteer vary per assignment at the event.
      • In some cases, registering as a medical center volunteer may be necessary.
      • Background checks may be required depending upon your assignment.

Visit this site to get connected:

    • Contact your local VA Medical Center and ask to speak with the VA Medical Center's Voluntary Service Office or the Voluntary Service Program Manager. You can also submit this email form to your local VA Medical Center and a local Program Manager will get back to you.
    • For a listing of Welcome Home Events scheduled in 2009 check this website.
  • Stand Down for Homeless Veterans:

Stand Downs are one way in which the Department of Veterans Affairs provides services to homeless veterans. Typically one-to-three day events provide services to homeless veterans such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as housing, employment, and substance abuse treatment.

Stand Downs are collaborative events, coordinated between local VAs, other government agencies, and community agencies that serve the homeless.

Since 1988, Stand Downs have been used as an effective tool in reaching out to homeless veterans, reaching more than 200,000 veterans and their family members between 1994-2000. In 2008, more than 30,000 veterans and 4,500 families received outreach services from Stand Downs aided by 24,500 volunteers.

Donations:
VA facilities may accept donations towards special programs like Stand Downs.

Expectations of “Stand Down” volunteers:

      • Adhere to schedule given.
      • Know hours required by assignment.
      • Be adaptable to different assignments given.
      • Be thankful and show appreciation to service members, veterans, and their families.

Requirements for “Stand Down” volunteers:

      • Requirements to volunteer vary per assignment at the event.
      • In some cases, registering as a medical center volunteer may be necessary.
      • Background checks may be required depending upon your assignment.

Visit this site to get connected:

    • Contact your local VA Medical Center and ask to speak with the VA Medical Center's Voluntary Service Office or the Voluntary Service Program Manager. You can also submit this email form to your local VA Medical Center and a local Program Manager will get back to you.
    • For a listing of Stand Down Events scheduled in 2009 check this website.
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