How to Volunteer to Help Disabled Veterans

By: Elizabeth Abbess  | 
Disabled U.S. veteran
Disabled U.S. Army veteran Johnnie Alexander looks on before participating in the power lifting competition during the inaugural Valor Games Far West on June 12, 2013, in San Mateo, California. Dozens of disabled and wounded military veterans participated in the games, which were open to any veteran with a disability who is eligible for VA health care. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As of 2016, there were 18.5 million military veterans living in the United States, according to a Nov. 9, 2017, release from the U.S. Census. The same release reported that 4 million of those veterans had a disability that occurred during active military service.

So, according to those statistics, a little less than one in four veterans is disabled, and while the majority are over the age of 55, many younger soldiers have been added to that list as the war in Afghanistan continues.


As you'd imagine, returning from war and transitioning to civilian life can be incredibly challenging. Adding a disability to the mix can up the difficulty substantially. Civilians can make this transition easier.

Veterans and PTSD

Many disabled veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that can develop after a terrifying event in which the victim is subjected to extreme physical harm or a life-threatening situation [source: NIMH]. The Department of Veterans Affairs told Congress that 940,000 people received compensation benefits related to PTSD.

So what's the best way to help a veteran with PTSD? Point them toward treatment, such as cognitive processing therapy or prolonged exposure, both of which may improve PTSD symptoms. If you're particularly close to the veteran, educate yourself on these therapies and consider getting support for yourself, too.


For urgent situations, be aware that there's a crisis line for veterans at 1-800-273-8255. A good place to start may be with the VA's PTSD online coach.

Tangible Ways to Help Veterans

Of course, you also can do your part by lending an ear and spending time with disabled veterans who may need someone to talk to.

Those veterans who had a physical injury may need help achieving daily goals that many of us take for granted, such as grocery shopping and taking out the garbage. We can all make a difference by volunteering our help with these everyday chores or even giving a ride.


On top of that, those who own businesses can make a huge impact by hiring disabled veterans.

Working With Nonprofits

There are also a number of grants set aside to help disabled veterans, particularly for education or housing. Oftentimes, the application process necessary to receive these grants is long and arduous, but the payoff is well worth it. You can help these men and women by assisting them with the process.

Not sure where to start or who to help? Nonprofits like the Fisher House Foundation and Semper Fi & America's Fund assist veterans in myriad ways, such as providing temporary housing for families of veterans receiving treatment at VA facilities, offering companion dog training or extending case management services.

These organizations are happy to have more donations and involvement, and often can match you with an opportunity in your area. You can read about a few more of them next, too.


Organizations Helping Disabled Veterans

Over the years, numerous organizations have been formed to help disabled veterans. While all of these organizations have roughly the same goal in mind, many of them approach it differently.

Some serve to provide disabled veterans with financial assistance while others focus more on providing them with rehabilitation services. Still other organizations focus solely on housing issues for disabled veterans.



One of the most famous groups helping disabled veterans, veterans and current service members is the United Service Organization, or the USO. Bob Hope helped bring public awareness to the USO, which has been in operation for 75 years.

It offers housing, emergency assistance and support groups. If you would like to help the USO, you can do so by making a donation, volunteering or becoming a partner.


Another organization is DAV. It focuses on the rehabilitation of disabled veterans, and it strives to provide those veterans affected with specific disabilities such as amputation or blindness with the tools they need to live a fulfilling life. It also provides grants for disabled veterans.

Additionally, DAV employs National Service Officers who provide legal representation to disabled veterans free of charge in order to help them claim benefits [source: DAV]. As always, you can help by making a donation, or for a more hands-on approach, you could organize a fundraising event in your area.


Paralyzed Veterans of America, or PVA, is an organization that focuses its efforts entirely on helping those suffering from spinal cord injuries or spinal cord dysfunction. Its commitment to research and education is helping to lead the charge in finding a cure for spinal cord injuries.

Homes for Our Troops

Another organization, Homes for Our Troops, is making a difference by building specially adapted homes for disabled veterans. You can help by volunteering your time and getting your hands dirty.

These are just a few of the organizations helping disabled veterans. If you're passionate about this issue, one of the best ways to help is by raising public awareness. Simply talk about the issue at hand with your friends and loved ones. For more ideas and information, visit the links that follow.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • K9s for Warriors website. (Nov. 9, 2018)
  • Charity Navigator. "Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust." Dec. 22, 2017 (Nov. 9, 2018)
  • DAV website. (Nov. 9, 2018)
  • Homes For Our Troops. "Way to Support Our Mission." (Nov. 9, 2018)
  • Housing Assistance Council. "Aging Veterans in the United States." May 2016. (Nov. 9, 2018)
  • National Institute of Mental Health. "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)." (Nov. 9, 2018)
  • Shane, Leo III. "PTSD Disability Claims by Vet Tripled in the Last Decade." Military Times. July 25, 2017 (Nov. 9, 2018)
  • The Wounded Warrior Project website. (Nov. 9, 2018)
  • U.S States Census Bureau. "Veterans Day 2017: Nov. 11." Nov. 9, 2017 (Nov. 9, 2018)
  • USO website. (Nov. 9, 2018)