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How to Best Support Veterans in Minnesota

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Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans' StandDown event, which brings many veterans services to one location.

We are in the midst of a time marked by celebration at the return of thousands of American service personnel from overseas. And with this new generation of men and women service members returning, donors are poised and inspired to support them more than ever. Addressing the challenges of re-entry in our communities is on the mind of many donors and Minnesotans.

As Kathleen Vitalis, President and CEO of the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, explains, “As many as 4,000 veterans are homeless in Minnesota or at risk of becoming homeless sometime during the year. Unaddressed medical and mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries are on the increase as veterans return home from Afghanistan and Iraq. These injuries cause loss of employment, housing instability and often times create legal issues for the veteran [and his/her family].”

Knowing how to best support these returning veterans can be intimidating. The Charities Review Council has held strong ties to veteran services since its inception in 1946. The Council (then called the Minnesota Community Research Council) was established through a $60,000 grant from the Minnesota War Service Fund. The organization was created out of concern that generous donors were being manipulated by national fundraising organizations following World War II.

Unfortunately, exploiting the generosity of caring donors and mismanaging funds still occurs to this day. As the Council’s Executive Director Rich Cowles explains, “various studies have shown that some veterans services organizations are poorly managed or are largely fundraising operations, with little funds used for services to veterans. And some manipulate donors because of the emotion related to serving veterans. It’s important to check out a nonprofit serving veterans before supporting it. Look for straightforward communications about how many veterans the organization has served, in what way, and what difference it’s made in the lives of veterans.” By advocating for transparency and accountability in the nonprofit sector, the Council has helped protect the valuable services provided by well-managed veterans services organizations.

Some things to consider when exploring how you can make a difference in the lives of veterans:

  • Many veterans services are carried out by local, state, and federal governmental agencies. If you want to have an impact in your local community check with these agencies for where there is the most need and how you can help. Start with the County Veteran Service Officer in the county of residence. To find your CVSO go to www.macvso.org.
  • Identify a trusted organization. Use our charity search to find organizations that “Meet Standards.”
  • Build a relationship with an organization asking questions related to your interests like:
    • “I hear stories in the news about military personnel struggling. How do you help them and how do you know it works?”
    • “I want to make a difference for a service member just returning home how can I do that?”
    • “I want to help with housing costs and food for military families. What services does your organization provide that I can support?”
  • Look for organizations that publicly and clearly state their programs work with veterans and that they demonstrate the impact of their work.
  • Get involved. Learn about the issues impacting returning military personnel to make informed decisions about your donations and consider volunteering.

In celebration of Memorial Day, the Charities Review Council, would like to take the chance to highlight the work of a few of the local organizations that have met our Accountability Standards and are doing an amazing job serving American veterans:

Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) is a nonprofit organization that has been assisting veterans (and their families) in crisis throughout Minnesota for over 22 years, including those who are experiencing homelessness. An estimated 4,000 Minnesota veterans will experience homelessness at some point in the next year; the MACV looks to serve these veterans and their families through providing housing and support during times of hardship. MACV services include employment assistance to achieve a sustainable, living wage, as well as utility assistance, and food vouchers. This organization also provides veterans with transportation services and legal clinics.

Minnesota Veterans Medical Research & Education Foundation is a nonprofit that works to provide outstanding medical care to local veterans. This organization recognizes that providing for the well-being of our veterans requires dedication to medical innovation and the responsible care of disease and disability. As its mission declares, this foundation is “dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of our country's veterans through cutting-edge medical research and education leading to prevention, diagnosis, and management of disease and disability.

RESOURCE, Inc. is a nonprofit that has served in the past five years over 1,500 veterans from every branch of the military by helping veterans find employment through its Jobs for Veterans program. Partnering with the Minnesota National Guard, Reserve units and veteran service organizations, Resource provides tools, resources, and referrals for success in job search and career transition.

Can Do Canines is a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities by creating mutually beneficial partnerships with specially trained dogs. These services include providing assistance dogs to returning disabled veterans.

Article written by the Charities Review Council volunteer Nathan Sayler