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Resources for Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the Cabinet department responsible for providing federal benefits to veterans and their dependents. A fact sheet from the VA reveals projected spending for health care, benefits, national cemetery operations, construction and departmental administration in the year 2003 was $59.6 billion.

The VA's health care benefits and services are extensive, with 163 VA hospitals in the United States, 850 ambulatory care and community-based outpatient clinics, 137 nursing homes, 43 domiciliaries and 73 comprehensive home-care programs. In addition, the VA operates 206 Vet Centers, providing psychological counseling for veterans.

NOW has focused several times on the difficulties some veterans face in tapping into these resources, and the effort of the Department of Veterans Affairs to remedy the current snags in the system. Below, find some links to agencies and organizations dedicated to providing information and assistance to veterans. Also, use our Veterans' Resource Map to find your local VA office and medical center.

Government Resources

Veterans Benefits Administration
The Veterans Benefits Administration, in partnership with the Veterans Health Administration and the National Cemetery Administration, provides benefits and services to veterans and their families in recognition of their service. The Web site provides information about compensation and benefits and provides online applications for those who are eligible.

U.S. Department of Defense
The Defense Department is a comprehensive source for current news on the U.S. Armed Services and provides resources for the families of service members.

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs reviews veterans' programs, examines current laws, and reports bills and amendments to strengthen existing laws concerning veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), such as for health care, disability compensation, GI bill education and job training, home loan guarantees, life insurance policies, and a nationwide system of veterans' cemeteries. Check this site for the latest information on new federal initiatives on veterans' matters.

National Center for PTSD
The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was created within the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989, in response to a Congressional mandate to address the needs of veterans with military-related PTSD. Its mission was, and remains: To advance the clinical care and social welfare of America's veterans through research, education, and training in the science, diagnosis, and treatment of PTSD and stress-related disorders. The Web site provides educational resources concerning PTSD and other enduring consequences of traumatic stress.

Non-Government Organizations

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
Founded in 1990 by a group of community-based homeless veteran service providers, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) seeks to eliminate homelessness in the veteran community, serving as a liaison between branches of the federal government and community-based homeless veteran service providers.

New Directions
An estimated 27,000 homeless veterans live in Los Angeles, possibly due to the country’s largest VA hospital and the mild climate. Many suffer from drug and alcohol abuse. Some suffer from both substance abuse and mental illness. New Directions, Inc., a long-term drug and alcohol treatment program, provides food, shelter and rehabilitation to homeless veterans at four locations.

Swords to Plowshares
Swords to Plowshares is a community-based veterans' self-help group that advocates for veterans' rights and provides direct services to veterans, with the goal of helping homeless and low-income veterans through direct services and advocacy of effective public policy. The site provides information about programs and services such as a drop-in center and legal services.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
The VFW is the oldest nonprofit veterans service organization, serving as a voice for veterans and a catalyst for change in improving veterans' benefits through community service programs and special projects.

Additional Resources

FRONTLINE: The Soldier's Heart
Web site for the FRONTLINE documentary about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and returning Iraq War veterans. The site includes extensive interviews with military and medical experts, a literary history of combat stress and other readings, a reporter's diary and other resources. You can watch the entire episode online.

National Memorial Day Concert Resources
The producers of the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS provide links to a variety of organizations and resources to help veterans connect to other veterans, learn about veterans and survivor benefits and share war-related experiences.

Online NewsHour: "Remembering the GI Bill"
The education and housing benefits World War II veterans received from the GI Bill transformed society. Journalist Jim Lehrer leads a discussion about the bill's legacy with a panel of historians.

PBS and NPR Programs
The PBS independent film series P.O.V. provides this list of programs dealing with Vietnam and other wars in conjunction with their presentation of the program SOLDADOS.

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