Since 2004, the VFW has provided more than $5 million supporting Veterans and military families who face an unexpected financial hardship related to their military service. The VFW program can directly pay eligible expenses with no obligation of repayment. VFW also provides referrals to other organizations should additional assistance be required.
After five combat tours in the Marine Corps, Sergeant Dustin Ellison was suffering from the post-war effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and severe PTSD.
“I thought [Dustin’s discharge date] would be the happiest day since he came home from service… I was wrong,” explained Heather Boyd, Dustin’s sister. “It was 100 [times] harder after war. It breaks my heart to watch my brother go through life like a ghost carrying guilt from serving for his country.”
Heather hoped Dustin’s struggles would end after being accepted into a 12-week program specifically designed to treat military-related TBI and PTSD. But when the severity of his condition and medical complications requiring surgery unexpectedly extended Dustin’s treatment, Heather feared her brother would leave the program if he was unable to keep up on his bills.
After learning about the VFW’s Unmet Needs program during a wounded warrior PTSD focus group, Heather reached out to VFW for help. An Unmet Needs grant came through just in time.
“I personally had depleted the money in my bank account… this was not only a relief for myself, but it allowed him the opportunity to focus on treatment and not stress about his lack of income,” said Heather.
Receiving an Unmet Needs grant provided the assistance Dustin needed to stay current on his bills. More importantly, it provided him the freedom to focus on his health – culminating with his graduation in January.
Heather explained that while Dustin still has work to do and will likely face daily struggles for the rest of his life, thanks to the VFW Unmet Needs program, he’s functioning better than ever.
VFW Unmet Needs Eligibility
Applicants must be the service member, Veteran, or eligible dependent listed under the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).
The financial hardship must be due to one of the following:
- Currently on active duty, whose financial hardship is a result of a current deployment, military pay error, or a discharge for medical reasons.
- Discharged on or after Sept. 11, 2001, whose financial hardship is a direct result of military service connected injuries and/or illnesses.
- Discharged prior to Sept. 11, 2001, on a fixed income that must include VA compensation for a service connected injury/illness and facing an unexpected financial hardship.
The financial hardship cannot be caused by:
- Civil, legal or domestic issues, misconduct, or any issues that are a result of spousal separation or divorce.
- Financial mismanagement by self or others, or due to bankruptcy.
All grants are paid directly to the creditor and applicants must provide the most current bills due.
Expenses Eligible for payment:
Household expenses – mortgage, rent, repairs, insurance.
Vehicle expenses – payments, insurance, repairs (major repairs for vehicles over ten years old
will not be considered).
Food and clothing.
Children’s clothing, diapers, formula, school or childcare expenses.
Medical bills, prescriptions & eyeglasses – the patient’s portion for necessary or emergency
medical care only.
Credit cards, military charge cards or retail store cards.
Cable, Internet, or secondary phones.
Cosmetic or investigational medical procedures & expenses.
Taxes – property or otherwise.
Furniture, electronic equipment or vehicle rentals.
Any other expenses not determined to be a basic life need.
The eligible and ineligible expense lists are not all inclusive. Each case will be carefully reviewed. Upon approval, payments will be made directly to the creditor. All applications are individually reviewed and the VFW reserves the right to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. For more information, contact Unmet Needs at 1-866-789-6333.
How to apply
The application is provided online only. To apply, click here to start your application.The process can take up to 20 business days while a caseworker reviews the application and supporting documents. Include the most recent bills due and the assigned caseworker will reach out to the creditor to verify all expenses. Payments will be mailed directly to the creditor after research is complete.
The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on part of the VA.
Aristeo Hernandez, Joseph Cardinal and Alyssa Morford are student interns working with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team.