Service-connected disabled veterans who lost employment because of the coronavirus pandemic can apply for $250 grants from Disabled American Veterans, the veterans service organization announced Monday.
“People are anxious, they’re worried about being able to take care of their families,” said Dan Clare, a Marine Corps veteran and DAV outreach officer. “We want to provide a little bit of assistance for as many as we can.”
DAV aims to raise $2.5 million toward the unemployment relief program and to give that to veterans facing a loss in wages though the end of April, he said.
The grants — made possible through donations from the American public and corporate sponsors – are intended to help veterans pay bills, obtain food and provide for their families.
“On top of the additional health risks our wounded, ill and injured veterans face with this virus, thousands of disabled veterans are being laid off or have had to close their small businesses due to the pandemic,” DAV National Commander Stephen “Butch” Whitehead said in a statement. “DAV remains dedicated—as we have for 100 years—to assisting our heroes who are desperately struggling and no longer able to make ends meet during this unprecedented time.”
Any veteran with a service-connected disability can apply online for the grants starting Monday.
Applicants do not have to be a member of DAV, but is required to verify their job loss, and DAV service officers will verify their service-connected disability with the Department of Veterans Affairs before funds are released.
“We are incredibly grateful for all of the generous donors who have made this relief possible,” Whitehead said. “While we don’t know when this crisis will end, we do know that we can make a lifesaving difference for our fellow veterans and their families with these grants.”
Veterans can receive one grant per household and are encouraged to also consider taking part in one of DAV’s virtual job fairs, which are still taking place during the pandemic. Many of the opportunities allow veterans to work from home, Clare said.
Like everyone during this pandemic, DAV is adapting to changes and preparing for a difficult road to recovery. They anticipate the programs and future donations to take a hit, Clare said.
While the nonprofit is still helping veterans file claims with the VA – though not in person — their transportation program that helps veterans get to VA medical appointments has nearly come to a halt.
“It’s scary for us to think of this program that’s a lifeline for veterans to get the care that they earned and they deserve suffering a shortfall,” Clare said. “We are worried about the fallout that this is going to have for veterans.”
Last year the program provided 615,000 rides nationwide, and Clare fears a number of those appointments could be missed without the program. Though some appointments have moved to online, not all care can be provided through video chat.
The unemployment grants, Clare said, are just one way DAV can remind veterans that Americans are still here for one another.
“We have to communicate and take care of each other in different ways,” he said. “Everyone needs to have some hope in their lives right now.”
Veterans can apply for a DAV unemployment grant, which will be issued on a first-come first-serve basis, at DAV.org/COVIDrelief.
Veterans who want to learn more about the benefits available to them can visit benefitsquestions.org.