Supporting veterans should be year-round effort

There is no shortage of charities and other philanthropic organizations seeking financial support. I have researched and come up with the top 10 charities supporting our veterans.

Of course, one of the most important aspects to investigate before giving to a veteran’s charity — or any charitable organization — is how much of the money donated actually goes to the cause being supported versus how much is earmarked for administrative expenses.

Several services, such as Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Watch are free and provide information about a charity’s functions, finances and management.

Remembering the sacrifices made by the men and women serving in the U.S. military should be in our hearts year round, not just around the holiday season. They need our support when they return home, and these organizations can help give that support.

This list includes 10 organizations supporting veterans.

1. Fisher House Foundation was started in 1990 to provide comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. These facilities are at major military and VA medical centers. They can accommodate a total of 832 families a day nationwide.

2. Thanks USA was started in 2006 by Kelsi and Rachel Okun to distribute need-based college, technical and vocational school scholarships to children and spouses of active duty U.S. military members. Since it was founded, the organization has awarded 3,500 scholarships totaling almost $10 million.

3. Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs that provide direct service to ill, injured or wounded veterans. The Trust also helps to fund programs that provide food, shelter and other necessary items to homeless or at-risk veterans and their families.

4. Homes for our Troops helps severely injured veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan by building mortgage-free and specially adapted houses for multiple amputees and veterans with traumatic brain injuries. Started in 2004, it also adapts existing homes for handicap accessibility.

5. Puppies Behind Bars has trained prison inmates since 2004 to raise service dogs for wounded war veterans and explosive detection canines for law enforcement. The puppies live in prison with inmates from the age of 8 weeks to 24 months. Once trained, the service dogs are placed, free of charge, with returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. The dogs learn special commands to help mitigate the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

6. Wounded Warriors Family Support was started by retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. John Folsom in 2003 to help families of those men and women who have been wounded, injured or killed during combat operations by providing, free of charge, family-friendly retreats where wounded veterans, their spouses and children can reconnect with each other in a low-stress setting. It offers a way to bond again and help heal the emotional and psychological trauma inflicted by war.

7. Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society has provided financial assistance and education to members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps and eligible family members, widows and survivors. It has provided more than $48 million in interest-free loans and grants to more than 100,000 sailors from their first day home through the rest of their lives.

8. USO is a nonprofit organization charted by Congress but not part of the Federal government. Since 1941, it has provided care packages, entertainment and recreation-type services to military members and their families. It operates more than 135 centers worldwide, providing free Internet and email access, libraries and reading rooms, housing assistance, family crisis counseling, support groups, game rooms and nursery facilities.

9. Hope for the Warriors was founded by military wives founded in 2006 as they witnessed, firsthand, the effects of war on spouses and their families. Their mission is to enhance the quality of life for post 9/11 service members who have sustained physical and psychological wounds in the line of duty. To help in the transition into civilian life, services include career transitions and education programs and health and wellness counseling.

10. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America serves the million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan from their first day home through the rest of their lives. Founded by an Iraq veteran, the group’s mission is to provide new veterans with health, education and employment support. It also encourages them to connect with other veterans in their area.

Martha Vail of Charlottesville is a member of the Hancock County Tea Party. She can be reached at