Life after military service can present challenges like finding a job, going back to school, navigating benefits, and even finding others who understand your story. Veteran service organizations (VSOs) can help service members before, during and after the transition process.
Some provide help filing claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs, some lobby Congress to maintain or extend benefits and others offer networking opportunities and camaraderie.
Based in Washington, D.C., the American Freedom Fund supports veterans with outdoor sporting activities, including softball and shooting. Twice-monthly, R.E.D. Friday events bring together supporters to enjoy camaraderie while Remembering Everyone Deployed. Lastly, AFF helps veterans and military spouses transition to civilian employment through headshot events with professional photographers and wardrobe consultants.
The American Legion, the largest wartime veteran service organization, provides local and national activities that focus on strengthening communities with diverse programming. Events range from youth baseball and oratorical competitions to shooting sports. American Legion Posts also employ veterans service officers who help veterans and their families navigate their benefits, including VA’s disability process. Many American Legion locations have physical clubs where veterans and their families can spend time with each other, whether watching a movie, going for a run or sharing a meal.
AMVETS National Service Foundation is the nation’s most inclusive VSO, as it is open to anyone who has served. AMVETS’ largest program is the National Service Officers, who help veterans through VA’s disability process. Other AMVETS programs include thrift stores, scholarships and service in VA hospitals.
Chartered in March 1945, Blinded Veterans Association is the sole congressionally chartered VSO for and by visually impaired service members. Its goal is to advocate for and mentor veterans – and their relatives – whose sight has been affected by their military service.
Bunker Labs supports transitioning service members and veterans through their entrepreneurship journey. Programs include Launch Lab Online, WeWork Veterans in Residence and CEOcircle.
Incorporated in New York in 1935, the Catholic War Veterans and Auxiliary is one of the oldest VSOs in existence. In addition to its advocacy, the organization also offers scholarships and provides service officers at no cost to help veterans with federal benefit claims.
Corporate America Supports You connects military and veteran jobs seekers with employers who are looking to hire veterans. Support includes job readiness assessment, referral to training or education programs, resume writing and matching with specific, available jobs from an extensive job listing service.
Disabled American Veterans provides a nationwide network of support for disabled veterans through community-based chapters, in-hospital service coordination offices, regional transition service offices and mobile offices serving veterans in rural areas. Specific programs include rides to VA medical facilities, free informational meetings about VA benefits and assistance filing VA benefit claims.
The Fleet Reserve Association’s programs support veterans by fighting for benefits in Congress. Accurate and up-to-date benefit information is disseminated through the FRAToday magazine. The FRA sponsors a large college scholarship program, an Americanism essay contest and a disaster relief fund to aid victims of natural disasters.
Gold Star Wives of America assists those who have lost a loved one in the line of duty while serving in any conflict the U.S. has been involved in. Membership includes the widow, as well as parents of fallen service members, regardless of rank, race or creed.
Hire Heroes USA provides free, personalized career coaching, mentoring and job search assistance. Specific help includes resume writing, mock interviews, virtual and in-person career fairs, and webinars on topics such as networking and finding a federal job.
Hiring Our Heroes, an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, connects military members, veterans and military spouses with employment opportunities. To accomplish that goal, Hiring Our Heroes offers a variety of digital tools, including a resume builder and a jobs portal.
IVMF, hosted at Syracuse University, offers a broad portfolio of employment and entrepreneurship support to service members, veterans and spouses in employment and entrepreneurship. Signature programs include Onward to Opportunity career and certification training and nine different entrepreneurship tracks.
Less than 20 years old, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America provides transition assistance focusing on mental health, health care and GI Bill benefits. Programs include VetTogether, bringing Post-9/11 veterans together with local-area events, and the Rapid Response Referral Program — providing high-tech, high-touch case management and referral services. Veteran transition managers connect veterans with governmental and non-governmental programs, benefits and services.
Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America helps service members reacclimate to the Jewish community and access VA benefits. The organization also works to fight against anti-Semitism in the military and in VA. It also works with several youth programs and advocates on Capitol Hill on behalf of its members.
The Marine Corps League programs include wounded warrior support, youth programming and veteran benefits. The Marine Corps League also founded and maintains the well-known Toys for Tots program that provides Christmas presents to underprivileged families.
The Military Officers Association of America is a powerful lobbying group dedicated to tackling important issues facing the military and veteran communities. It also offers career services, educational support, and pay and benefits information. Regular newsletters and its print magazine keep members informed about the most important issues before Congress and the Department of Defense.
Open exclusively to those who have been awarded a Purple Heart, this organization provides disability claims assistance and scholarship opportunities to veterans and their eligible family members. Outreach programs include VA’s Volunteer Service Program, youth programs like JROTC support and community Americanism program.
The National Association of Black Veterans advocates on behalf of its members with the goal of having 50% of Black veterans among its membership and establishing departments and councils nationwide. NABVETS intends to connect with recently separated service members, as well as those on active duty.
National Veterans Legal Services Program was founded in 1981 to advocate for service members to receive the benefits they’re owed. NVLSP works with the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America and MOAA to keep volunteers and fellow advocates up to date on laws and advocacy techniques.
Paralyzed Veterans of America has supported disabled and paralyzed service members for more than a quarter century. Its cornerstones include advocating for quality health care; research and education on spinal cord injuries; military-related benefits; and civil rights.
Patriot Boot Camp offers veterans, spouses and current-serving military members with a variety of entrepreneurship resources. Three-day camps include mentoring sessions, networking and skills development. PBC alums support each other as their businesses grow.
Student Veterans of America provides veterans with the resources they need to succeed in higher education and post-graduation employment. Through local chapters, scholarships, and leadership training, it improves the student veteran experience. Research and lobbying efforts help protect military educational benefits from changes and cutbacks.
Team RWB builds community through fitness and wellness activities such as group runs, yoga and bike rides. Members build friendships and workout their stress in the company of other veterans.
Team Rubicon helps veterans connect and find a new purpose with boots-on-the-ground disaster assistance. The organization’s “deployments” gives veterans a place to connect with other vets and find a new purpose.
The Boot Campaign works across the country to help veterans find and pay for evidence-based medical and mental health care. Through their networks, providers and veterans can work together to create and implement plans for recovery from the invisible wounds of war.
Veterans Campaign provides the military community with the tools and guidance to run for public office. Support includes training workshops, networking opportunities, conferences, research and a “field manual.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is a powerful lobbying and benefit resource organization providing assistance through the Unmet Needs Program, the Sport Clips Help a Hero Scholarship and other benefits claims work, grants and scholarships. Physical clubs provide a place for veterans and their families to socialize with people who understand their experiences.
Veterati connects transitioning service members, veterans and spouses with experienced mentors for one-hour phone calls. Mentors can help with navigating networking, interviewing, salary negotiation and the realities of working in the civilian world.
Vietnam Veterans of America’s motto is “Helping veterans, communities, and those serving in harm’s way.” The organization fulfills its mission with a wide variety of veteran services, public outreach and veterans’ advocacy projects. In particular, their service officers help veterans prepare disability claims.
Wounded Warrior Project supports the special needs of injured veterans. WWP has more than a dozen programs ranging from the Combat Stress Recovery Program to career assistance to free, telephonic, non-clinical talk therapy for registered veterans, family members and caregivers.