There was a time when former U.S. Army Spc. Chris Blevins couldn’t make ends meet. Blevins, diagnosed with PTSD, was unable to provide food for his family and was despondent. Then he received a letter from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFA) stating he’d been approved for an Unmet Needs grant.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening. I couldn’t believe that somebody else heard about my situation and had taken it upon themselves to show compassion,” Blevins said. “That moment, single-handedly, changed the course of my life. The VFW gave me back to my family.”
A serious problem
According to Capt. Lynn W. Rolf III, VFW’s director of programs, housing and basic life necessities remain challenging for many who’ve served their country.
“A high concentration, approximately 25 percent, of post-9/11 veterans currently experience food insecurity,” Rolf said. “It’s extremely stressful on the entire family.
“The veteran will go without to ensure their family is taken care of first. The worry, and the constant lingering question of ‘what next,’ weighs heavily on the provider. This is a stress that impacts everyone in the household.”
Fortunately, there are steps veterans can take to improve money management skills.
“Talk to financial professionals, and take the time to really access and understand your financial situation,” Rolf said. “Try to remain positive and don’t lose hope. Draw on the sense of commitment and strength learned in the military, and apply those traits to your next phase of life.”
There are numerous programs available to help that veterans might not know about. They can visit with a VFW service officer to see what VA benefits or compensation for which they may be eligible.
Life after service
Rolf says once veterans return home, they should set short-term and long-term goals. As for tackling grants, loans, and starting the financial process after deployment, “It’s important to remain realistic,” Rolf said. “Don’t go overboard on spending to the point of falling behind on the necessities. Try to start saving prior to transition for those emergencies that you’re not able to forecast.”
Rolf feels it’s important for military families and spouses, caregivers, and employers to be aware of financial issues.
“The more educated their support networks are, the higher the probability that our veterans attain success,” he said.
A sense of appreciation
Rolf also says vets are extremely grateful for the financial advice and assistance available to them.
“Veterans value everything, probably more than the average citizen,” he said.
He adds that the men and women who’ve proudly worn the uniform should never be afraid to ask for help.
“Reach out to your networks, and take the time to educate yourself on the many programs and services out there that exist to help support you through the tough times,” Rolf said.