Why Veterans Don't Use All their Benefits
Originally published with Salute, Inc. - Veteran's Day 2014
There was once a time to be the Lone Sailor, or that Stoic Soldier, standing watch over your post and our country; for Veterans, that time has passed.
It's OK to grab hold of those hands reaching out to you.
It's been over 4 years since I was medically retired from the Navy after 8 years of service. Medically retired with an extra heap of VA benefits; and yet not many people know that about my discharge. I like to think I hide it well.
- I'm proud of my service (everyone knows this),
- I often find myself missing those years (some people know this), and
- I tend to feel guilty about not serving longer or that I'm using a lot of benefits (I don't talk about this).
It's not until the days when the pain is too much for me to go to work that I think I deserve my benefits. And yet no one has ever accused me not needing the benefits I have, not even the amputee holding the hospital door for me as I walk in unaided - it's all in my head.
Vets aren't generally comfortable with weakness, and we have a requisite amount of humility that comes with putting your life on the line for strangers. After we take off the uniform, we might just want to blend in with everyone else, in spite of the fact that we did earn just a little something extra....
Do you know all of the Veterans you work with? Do you know his story? Have you ever paused for just a moment to see if your community is showing her enough gratitude? Have you told them you have their back if they need time off?
Veterans: Lay down the pride!
We owe it to ourselves to accept the help and benefits our nation has to offer.
Use your GI Bill and finish your education, start something new, or just challenge yourself to explore the world and connect with a new team. The Post 9/11 version of the GI Bill offers some incredible benefits and actually makes it feasible to go to school without needing to have a full-time job.
Get VA Small Business backing and stake your own claim on the American dream. Then reach out to your brothers and sisters for support. I can't speak for the entire country, but given the choice, I'll always spend my money with a Veteran-owned business.
The smallest things are often the hardest, though: don't be embarrassed to ask for your discount at the hardware store or movie theater. Remember: those businesses want to honor you - let them!
So now I call upon the neighbors, friends, and family that have not served:
Find a way to talk to a Veteran, just one, and help them take advantage of that which our country still has to offer for them.
Please Take a Few Minutes to Listen to Wes Moore: How To Talk To Veterans