Each time a bugle plays Taps and a folded flag is presented to a grieving family, experts tell us that on average, 10 lives will be profoundly impacted. These are the wives, children, parents, siblings and battle buddies of America’s heroes, and they have paid a very steep price for our nation’s freedom.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) stands united with the Department of Veterans Affairs to, in the words of President Lincoln to care for “those who shall have borne the battle” and their survivors and their children. With this common purpose in mind, and with our annual Honor Guard Luncheon as the backdrop, TAPS and the VA signed a formal Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on April 12 to assist surviving military and Veteran family members as they identify and secure the benefits available to them through the service of their loved ones.
TAPS and VA have worked together for many years on behalf of America’s surviving military families. In May 2014, our organizations signed our first MOA, focused specifically on education entitlements for widows and surviving children. The new agreement formalizes what has been a long-standing, informal working relationship in areas beyond education, including grief counseling, burial benefits and more.
For the past 23 years, TAPS has provided key services including peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, bereavement seminars and retreats for adults, camps for children, case work assistance, connections to community based care, online and in-person support groups, and the 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline for all those grieving a military or veteran loved one. Services are provided regardless of the surviving loved one’s relationship to the deceased; the duty status of the deceased, whether active duty, reserve forces or veteran; or the circumstances of death.
Under the MOA, TAPS will connect with surviving families and will begin to identify resources available to them both within the VA and through private sources. Specifically, the MOA encompasses work done by TAPS and the VA concerning:
• The Fry Scholarship, Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) and general education benefits;
• National Cemetery Administration benefits (e.g. burial, headstones and markers, educational programming and the Presidential Memorial Certificates);
• VA Survivor Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and Survivor Pension;
• VA Caregiver Support Program, including the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC); and
• VA mental health and suicide prevention resources for Veterans, family members and community providers, including (but not limited to) training, outreach and self-help resources.
It is our responsibility to honor the commitment our country made to care for the families of the fallen. Ultimately, this agreement will help those surviving family members who have already suffered the loss of their loved one as they seek timely access to the benefits earned through the service of their loved one. TAPS looks forward to working closely with the VA as we identify new ways to collaborate to bring compassionate care to survivors, dependents and all who are grieving the death of a fallen hero.
Bonnie Carroll is the founder and president of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. Since its founding in 1994, TAPS has offered support to more than 70,000 surviving loved ones of our fallen military heroes and their caregivers. In 2015, Bonnie was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which she accepted on behalf of all those grieving the loss of a loved one as a result of their military service to the nation. For more information about TAPS, visit www.taps.org or call 1.202.588.TAPS (8277).