Since it was established in 1920, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has been working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and partner organizations to ensure veterans receive their full benefits. Especially since the onset of COVID-19, the veterans' service organization (VSO) has accelerated its work to make sure veterans continue to have access to innovative health offerings.
"DAV's mission is rooted in service — and as veterans needed us most, as many lost their jobs, fell ill or became isolated in their homes — DAV members, volunteers and staff quickly pivoted to provide the resources necessary to help those in need," said Stephen Whitehead, DAV's national commander, during the organization's 2021 National Convention in Tampa, Florida, last weekend.
To respond to COVID-19, DAV rapidly stood up and staffed a new toll-free hotline to enable veterans to contact experts for help with claims and benefits. In 2020, DAV's services enabled veterans and their families to obtain more than $23 billion in earned benefits.
DAV also established the COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Fund in April to provide financial aid to service-connected disabled veterans who lost employment or small-business income in the wake of the pandemic.
"Sadly, many ill and injured veterans ... found themselves out of work or at risk of losing their disabled veteran small business. The bottom line is that veterans and their families were losing income, and DAV had to find a way to help them put food on the table and pay their bills. Urgent needs warranted immediate action," Whitehead said.
With the economic downturn, DAV also transitioned its employment services to virtual platforms to ensure veterans could continue their job search. As a result, thousands of veterans received job offers and DAV was able to stay connected with the veteran community.
"You need to address food, clothing and shelter. So, you're looking at the resources necessary for [veterans] to be successful. So, making sure if they had disabilities that can overcome those. And not only that you're getting employment, but substantial, gainful employment," Randy Reese, executive director of DAV's Washington Headquarters, told GovernmentCIO Media & Research.