Thousands of nonprofit organizations have formed to provide financial assistance and necessary services to veterans, active service members, and their families. Each of these organizations offers essential relief to those who sacrifice so much for their country.
The following list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exceptional veterans organizations. The following groups were chosen because of their high ratings on nonprofit assessment websites and their different ways of making a difference in the lives of servicemen and women and their families.
Listed below are the Top 10 Best Veteran Charities That Serves Military Service Members and Families:
Mission: We ask people to stand up for heroes so that we can find, fund, and shape innovative programs that help our impacted veterans, service members, and their families thrive.
Charity Navigator Rating: 97.62% (82% of their expenses goes towards their programs)
Bob Woodruff was a journalist and co-anchor for ABC’s “World News Tonight.” In 2006, while he was reporting in Iraq, his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. He sustained a severe brain injury and was immediately sent to the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.
While there, his wife Lee met and formed relationships with other families dealing with traumatic brain injuries. As Bob began to heal, he and his wife started the Bob Woodruff Family Foundation to support the troops, veterans, and their families.
Bob’s celebrity allows the foundation to spread the word about the specific needs of soldiers across the world. This foundation also works with and funds smaller nonprofits throughout the country to cover different ways to support these individuals and their families.
In addition to providing housing, legal services, food banks, and more, this veterans organization has programs that highlight fertility and other scientific issues affecting post-911 veterans.
Their Veterans In Vitro InitiAtive (VIVA) program funds the unreimbursed costs veterans are stuck with when dealing with infertility treatments.
The Stand SMART for Heroes program partners with scientific organizations to provide scientific research findings to nonprofits across the country helping post-911 veterans, service members, and their families.
This organization started because Bob Woodruff and his wife faced one of the worst possible outcomes of war. Their experience shows that this can happen to any army family, regardless of race, religion, or wealth. The foundation has taken Woodruff’s fame and put it to good use by supporting other nonprofits around the country.
Mission: To build and donate specially adapted custom homes nationwide for severely injured post-9/11 Veterans, to enable them to rebuild their lives
Charity Navigator Rating: 91.51% (85% of their expenses goes towards their programs)
Homes for our Troops do just what you would expect. They have already built 317 homes and are currently working on 66 more, made specifically for injured veterans. These homes are fully adapted for injured vets and exceed ADA compliance standards. The goal is to help vets gain the independence they have lost.
Each home is approximately 2800 square feet and has lowered countertops, roll-under access for wheelchairs, widened doorways and hallways, roll-in showers, automatic tubs and other appliances, and more.
The veterans who receive these homes have been severely injured in battle. Many have had their limbs amputated, are fully paralyzed, or suffer from severe traumatic brain injury.
The support these vets receive does not end after they move into their homes. Homes for our Troops also provide vets with a pro-bono financial planner for three years and a mentoring program. They have plans in the works to partner with other nonprofits that offer employment, education, training, health, and other support services as well.
Providing these veterans with their own homes designed for their needs offers a chance to regain some of what they lost in war. Home for our Troops has successfully addressed a need that no one else has quite accomplished in the same way.
Mission: We support Veterans and their families by building relationships and identifying and supporting immediate needs and interests. We are dedicated to promoting public awareness of the many sacrifices made by our Armed Forces
Charity Navigator Rating: 100% (91% of their expenses goes towards their programs)
Operation Second Chance started in 2004 and serves veterans in Maryland, Virginia, and DC. Their founder, Cindy McGrew, took her personal experience working with injured vets at Walter Reed and turned it into a developing nonprofit.
This veteran charity provides airfare for families to reach the hospital. It also covers the vets’ monthly bills for the first months of recovery. They also offer scholarships up to $2,500 per year for dependent children and spouses of injured vets.
Financial issues aside, being in the hospital can be lonely and boring. Operation Second Chance volunteers visit injured soldiers at the hospital. They bring food and games and build lasting relationships when possible. These trips are also a big way the organization stands apart from others doing the same work.
Mission: Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) trains prison inmates to raise service dogs for wounded war veterans and first responders, as well as explosive-detection canines for law enforcement. Puppies enter prison at the age of 8 weeks and live with their inmate puppy-raisers for approximately 24 months. As the puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs, their raisers learn what it means to contribute to society rather than take from it.
Charity Navigator Rating: 100% (86.9% of their expenses goes towards their programs)
Puppies Behind Bars made this list, even though it is not technically a veterans organization, because it supplies well-trained service dogs to injured veterans. This organization has worked to improve the lives of three groups: veterans, dogs, and prisoners. Too often, each of these groups is ignored and treated poorly.
Their program Dog Tags: Service Dogs for Those Who’ve Served Us trains prisoners to live with and train dogs to support vets with physical and mental injuries. Labrador retrievers are raised with prisoners from ages eight weeks to almost twenty-eight months. These dogs are trained in over 90 commands.
Once the dogs are ready for their new owners, the organization brings the vet to train with the dog and prison dog trainer for fourteen days. They will leave the training with their own service dog and be fully certified as service dog handlers. Puppies Behind Bars pays for all transportation, hotels, and food for the vets during their training.
It’s one of many service dog training centers, but they have made this list because the organization does not stop once the vet has their dog. Puppies Behind Bars follows up with all vets and their service dogs for five years. They also provide resources, support, advice, and feedback to ensure they have found the right match.
Mission: To build strong, stable, and secure military families so they can thrive – not simply struggle to get by – in the communities that they’ve worked so hard to protect.
Charity Navigator Rating: 87.44% (91% of their expenses goes towards their programs)
Between military pay ending and veteran’s benefits beginning, there is a long gap. Military families often only have one income, and when that income is on hold, financial problems can seem insurmountable. Operation Homefront works to provide relief during these times and make sure short-term money problems do not grow into more.
The veteran’s organization has three programs that address veterans’ critical needs:
Critical financial assistance is given to military families in immediate need. Operation Homefront helps cover mortgage or rent payments, utilities, car repairs, home repairs, overdue bills, baby items, and groceries. For donors concerned about misuse of funds, this financial aid is either paid directly to the service provider or given in the form of a grocery gift card.
Transitional housing is provided to military families with nowhere to go as they wait for their benefits or disability. In San Diego, California, Gaithersburg, Massachusetts, and San Antonio, Texas, veterans can find rent-free apartments and single-family homes for up to two to three years.
There is also a program for military families looking to purchase a home. Veterans can get a mortgage-free home and counselors to prepare them for homeownership. Currently, 600 out of the 700 families that have started this program have successfully graduated; they now own their homes mortgage-free.
Veteran caregiver support is another area of need that Operation Homefront is addressing. Through peer-to-peer support, coaching, and retreats, caregivers receive the support to care for veterans with physical and mental injuries.
Mission: Fisher House Foundation builds comfort homes where military & veteran families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital.
Charity Navigator Rating: 98.23% (93.7% of their expenses goes towards their programs)
Like other veteran organizations on the list, Fisher House Foundation covers the expenses and provides comfortable homes for families and veterans during their time recovering from injuries during battle.
Fisher houses are temporary homes located near medical centers around the world. Families have private bathrooms and bedrooms. Additionally, there is a shared kitchen, dining, and living room where these families can interact. They can also hopefully form essential bonds to get through the tough road to recovery.
Fisher House Foundation also provides frequent flyer miles to fly families to the veterans’ hospital to be with the soldier while he or she heals.
Other services include college scholarships for dependent children and spouses of soldiers who have died or are seriously injured.
Fisher House Foundation has also formed a partnership with Newman’s Own Foundation, actor Paul Newman’s foundation, and the Military Times. Through this partnership, nonprofits can find grants to provide military veterans and servicemen, and women with life improvement plans.
Mission: We believe those touched by military service can succeed at home by restoring their sense of self, family, and hope. Nationally, Hope For The Warriors provides comprehensive support programs for service members, veterans, and military families that are focused on transition, health and wellness, peer engagement, and connections to community resources.
Charity Navigator Rating: 91.6% (85.4% of their expenses goes towards their programs)
What helps get a veteran’s life back on track? Some organizations focus on health services for injured service members. Others help veterans find new civilian jobs after discharge. Finally, several veterans organizations have chosen to supply injured veterans with access to adaptive equipment to make their lives easier and help them find independence again.
Hope for the Warriors has taken on all of these projects and provided support for the families and caregivers of these soldiers. The following programs help Hope for the Warriors give service members a chance to regain their independence and live healthy, happy civilian lives.
This program helps injured service members and their families purchase adaptive equipment, tools, or a space to use for a new career. With grants delivered directly to servicemen and women, they can buy these necessary items without going into debt.
Hope for the Warriors has created a job board for veterans and military spouses. The jobs posted are with companies who know what these warriors are worth and understand what challenges may arise. In addition to finding the right job, this program provides these individuals with job training, mentorship from other veterans, and help with their resumes. Companies also receive access to finding the right veteran employees for their company.
Learning to drive the first time is hard enough. Learning to drive again after a severe injury can feel downright impossible. Dealing with the issue of learning to drive again does not exist within the VA system. Hope for the Warriors has partnered with the Driver Rehabilitation Center of Excellence to work with doctors and provide behind-the-wheel training for adaptive vehicles.
Even with awareness of PTSD growing, there are still gaps in care with the VA for service members suffering severe mental health issues. Hope for the Warriors has done its best to fill these gaps by providing access to Master-level Social Workers, addressing barriers to treatment, finding the best care available in each service members’ state, and caregiver training.
Vets can also apply for grants for financial assistance to pay for their care.
Financial worries can be overwhelming for military families when dealing with delays in benefits, loss of the family’s sole income, losing a home, or serious healthcare needs. Hope for the Warriors supplies veterans access to program coordinators; they can provide financial education, resources, and even short-term financial support.
This program provides military families with caregiver training workshops, clinical support services, and financial help for the children in these families. In the past, this program has also run backpack drives and provided scholarships for sports activities, summer camps, and school lunches.
By joining programs like the 30-day Virtual Challenge or Outdoor Adventures, Hope for the Warriors gives donors a chance to help these veterans while living their own healthy lives.
Mission: Provide enhanced support to wounded, ill, and injured service members, their caregivers, and families during their medical recovery and reintegration into civilian life
Charity Navigator Rating: 90.45% (81.5% of their expenses goes towards their programs)
There are hundreds of organizations out there that help veterans. The Yellow Ribbon Fund focuses on the caregivers of severely wounded post-911 veterans. The primary goal of this veterans organization is to keep families together during the recovery process. Also, to give support to those who care for our nation’s injured service members.
Through Yellow Ribbon Fund’s Crossroads program, families of injured vets recovering at Walter Reed receive free hotel stays, rental cars, and fully furnished apartments.
Yellow Ribbon Fund’s Keystone program provides emotional and financial support for the caregivers of post-911 veterans. This veterans organization also provides families with transitional services, caregiver training, health and wellness events, family retreats, and peer-to-peer support.
This focus on caregivers makes Yellow Ribbon Fund unique to veterans organizations. When a service member is injured, the military families suffer too. More organizations are starting to realize the needs of these families. But it is nice to see an organization focus its entire mission on helping military families through these challenging times.
Mission: Formed by military aviators to “care for our own.” We work closely with the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association to do that. We focus on active duty, guard, reserve, and retired military personnel and their families needing financial assistance for medical, educational, and other extraordinary expenses not covered by other military, veterans, or charitable institutions.
Charity Navigator Rating: 92.92% (96.4% of their expenses goes towards their programs)
Most veterans organizations on this list target post-911 veterans. But the Air Warrior Courage Foundation continues to serve our Vietnam veterans.
The Air Warrior Courage Foundation was formed by members of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, or RRVA. This group started out providing scholarships to the surviving children and spouses of lost air fighters in the Vietnam War.
In 1998, the Air Warrior Courage Foundation started, and their goals grew to include:
Thanks to the growth of this organization, the Air Warrior Courage Foundation has included a program to provide equipment and therapeutic riding programs for military children with special needs. They have also increased their efforts to provide financial assistance and materials to surviving family members of those we have lost in the War on Terror.
The Air Warrior Courage Foundation is a smaller organization. Its efforts have been recognized and funded by another veterans organization on this list, the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Mission: We serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. We do this by creating and supporting unique programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen, and build communities.
Charity Navigator Rating: 98.23% (89.4% of their expenses goes towards their programs)
Gary Sinise found his fame playing Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump. Some may assume he started the foundation because of this role. But actually, Sinise has been forming relationships with servicemen and women for decades. His interest in veterans affairs began in the early 80s. Back then people often wouldn’t treat Vietnam vets with the respect they had earned.
Like many other veterans organizations, the Gary Sinise Foundation provides injured veterans and first responders with adapted homes and equipment, caregiver training, and mental healthcare through partnerships with other organizations. While their efforts here are admirable, the organization also focuses on something a little different from the rest.
The Gary Sinise Foundation regularly holds inspirational events to entertain, strengthen, and build strong communities of service members. Invincible spirit festivals take place with regular performances by Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band. This veterans organization also connects with past and current service members.
Thanks to the Soaring Valor program, the Gary Sinise Foundation also flies World War II veterans to tour the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Veterans don’t have to pay for this trip, and they are treated like the heroes they are.
The Serving Heroes program provides meals for active military across the world at military bases, transportation hubs, police departments, firehouses, and veterans senior living facilities.
Another way this veterans organization has shown their thanks for veterans is by sharing Sinise’s love of theater. In 1984, Sinise directed a play called “Tracers” written by Vietnam veterans, and started the first “Vets night” at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. This “Vet Night” continues to expose soldiers to theatre experiences they may not have otherwise.
Less than 1% of American citizens are part of the military. Soldiers and military families live very different lives than the rest of us. Those differences between military families and the rest of us create a break between the two worlds. The Gary Sinise Foundation addressed this by opening a center in 2017 to educate the public on military lives and thank vets for their service.
Finally, in 2020, the Gary Sinise Foundation has addressed the Covid Pandemic’s effects on our military. Thanks to foundation donors, the foundation raised over $1.4 million to provide frontline health care workers with PPE and equipment, and support. It also served 60,000 meals to medical personnel, veterans, and active-duty military.
The above list of veterans organizations gives only a taste of the organizations working so hard for veterans and their families. Some of these organizations are small and deal with local issues. Others like the Gary Sinise Foundation have nationwide recognition. All serve military vets or active service members, their caregivers, and their families.
Each of these veteran charities uses at least 80% of the funds raised on their programs instead of fundraising and administrative costs. They have also all tested above 80% on Charity Navigator. It’s an organization that evaluates 501c3 charities based on financials, transparency, and how the nonprofits use the funds raised.
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