For more than a century America has dedicated November 11th to the appreciation of those who serve in the country’s armed forces. This Veterans Day, we want to share some of the great work our partners are doing to address the needs of veterans around the country.
BeneLynk is a major supporter of the veteran community, providing important career opportunities and helping veterans access the benefits they’ve earned.
Benelynk’s work with us began nearly 18 months ago, as they searched for a partner that could provide them with both a comprehensive community program database and the ability to connect automatically through BeneLynk’s proprietary case management system. Since then, BeneLynk has assisted more than 66,000 Medicare Advantage members with community programs that have made significant improvements in their lives — including critical services like food delivery, COVID-19 protective gear, and household utilities financial assistance.
James Tongate, Vice President of Government Relations at BeneLynk, first joined the organization to help his fellow veterans obtain the health benefits and employment opportunities that are available to them after leaving the service. This support is crucial amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the veteran community. “Our nation and the private sector had made strides with veteran and military spouse employment opportunities through the years, but the pandemic has reversed a lot of that progress — setting veterans back to March 2013 employment numbers,” Tongate notes. He’s also seen how other issues like food insecurity and mental health issues caused by isolation are being worsened by the pandemic, with many elderly veterans impacted but unaware of the programs available to them in their communities. BeneLynk has worked hard to help those that risked their lives for their country to secure access to the services they need in these difficult times.
Veterans Health and Wellness Foundation
The Veterans Health and Wellness Foundation was created to help care for the men and women who have borne the battle — providing solutions for individuals, businesses, and others to ensure America’s promise to its servicemembers is honored well after their tour of duty is finished. The key programs the Veterans Health and Wellness Foundation provides include:
- Community Health / Wellness Events and Townhalls
- Veteran and Family Centered Health and Education Forums
- Accredited Veteran Focused Education for Healthcare Professionals
- Command Support Center Social Determinants Technology Platform
Dr. Evelyn Lewis, President of the Veterans Health and Wellness Foundation, has been on the front lines of providing care to the veteran community for several decades. “I served 25 years in the Navy as a family physician before and during the Global War On Terror era. During the years I provided direct patient care, my patients were always active duty service members, veterans, and their families. From my early years of training at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, to my retirement, I knew that caring for Veterans and their families was why I was here and what I wanted to do,” says Lewis. “To continue and expand on this work, I started the Warrior Centric Healthcare Foundation. However, we recently changed the name to the Veterans Health and Wellness Foundation because we believe our new name best describes our purpose and mission to deliver on America’s promise to its servicemembers.”
Dr. Lewis first heard about Aunt Bertha several years ago when evaluating it and others as potential social care network partners, concluding that it was the best partner to help the foundation serve its community and its needs. “We needed a partner that could help us connect veterans, their families, and their caregivers to free and reduced cost services in an easily accessible way. Aunt Bertha’s been a tremendous partner in making this possible for our foundation, and the commitment to the veteran community is evident in their work,” notes Lewis. “We’re working with Aunt Bertha to create a system that takes away the complexity and barriers to care that veterans and their families currently face.”
The work is far from over for Dr. Lewis and her team, especially with COVID-19 impacting the veteran community so severely. “We’ve got more than 100 years of military and post-military experience within our leadership team at the Veterans Health and Wellness Foundation, giving us unique insight into the struggles and experiences of the veteran community at large,” Lewis continues. “However, resource challenges — including proper funding — will continue to be a barrier to a more equitable social care system for our nation’s patriots. When you’re in the field on a mission, unit leaders will often note that ‘chow is continuous;’ material support for our efforts back home needs to be continuous as well given the challenges the veteran community faces every day.”
“We hope everyone can appreciate what our veteran community has sacrificed for the well-being of all Americans, and encourage anyone with a connection to the community to visit our website, become a neighbor, and donate!”
The American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is known for its disaster relief work around the country, but its mission was born on the battlefield through Clara Barton’s support of Civil War soldiers. In the 140 years since its founding, The American Red Cross has become a trusted emblem for the U.S. military and the veteran community — committed to serving the community from the time service members take their oath through their post-service life as veterans.
Aunt Bertha began working with The American Red Cross to support their information and referral services for the military community. “We were looking for a partner that would give us the ability to provide the best support and information and referral services to tens of thousands of active duty military, veterans, retirees, and their families,” says Emily Osment, who works as the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) and International Services Communications Manager for The American Red Cross. Since beginning work with Aunt Bertha, The American Red Cross has been able to consolidate individual resource lists and literal binders scattered across dozens of regions into one platform. Now, any Red Cross caseworker, regardless of location, can access this platform and provide referrals to clients at any time. They’re also working closely with Aunt Bertha to integrate the platform into their case management system, which will further streamline the support process for caseworkers and the clients they serve.
The work being done with The American Red Cross will be crucial to the organization’s support of the veteran community in the months ahead. “The most pressing issue the Red Cross faces, in regard to the veteran community, is the impact of COVID-19 on this community, their families and caregivers,” Osment notes. She emphasizes that, unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is not only exacerbating social services issues for veterans but is creating significant challenges for American Red Cross clinical and non-clinical volunteers who are supporting veteran’s hospitals. The rise in mental health issues amongst the veteran community stemming from extended isolation due to prolonged separation and separation is cause for concern as well. It’s why they’re calling on the American public to help sew and donate face coverings to veteran’s hospitals experiencing supply shortages, as well as doubling the size of their Military and Veteran Caregiver Network to combat the health issues caused by the pandemic.
“As COVID-19 continues to impact our veterans, the American Red Cross is committed to helping combat the issues that are strongly affecting this community. We are expanding our Resiliency Workshops to offer virtual courses to help combat feelings of isolation, provide anger management, encourage family communication and offer COVID-19 specific stress-coping methods,” says Osment. “We will continue to support veteran’s hospitals in need through our volunteer network, distribution of care packages and providing face coverings. And our Hero Care Network continues to offer 24/7 relief for veterans facing emergencies and needing financial assistance or information referrals.”
Appreciation of our Armed Forces Community
We are proud to continue working with our partners in the veteran community who continue to fight for the wellbeing of our country’s service members, long after they’ve finished their tour of duty. Thank you, and Happy Veterans Day!