Veterans News

The Compassion Cure

Each year in February, VA hospitals celebrate National Salute to Veterans week with special events to pay tribute and express appreciation to veterans. It is also a time when citizens are encouraged to become involved as volunteers and visit veterans in hospitals.

But with Covid restrictions, opportunities to get involved at hospitals have been limited. Elks volunteers have struggled with the inability to serve veterans in the same ways they usually do with meals and interactive events. The Center for Development and Civic Engagement (formerly VA Voluntary Service) staff members also recognized that veterans have become even more isolated and decided to create a new program to address that problem.

Compassionate Contact Corps is a program that connects volunteers with veterans and facilitates socially distanced conversations on a regular basis. Clinicians give a "social prescription” to veterans who may benefit from these phone or video conversations. Volunteers are trained and carefully screened to be matched with veterans who share interests and experiences.

CDCE partnered with VA Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Caregiver Support, Whole Health, and others to create the training that volunteers must complete to participate in this program. Training topics include confidentiality, privacy, customer service, empathy, and boundaries. Volunteers do not provide clinical, spiritual, or financial advice to veterans or their caregivers.

Veterans who have participated in Compassionate Contact Corps so far have responded positively about their experiences. Over 80% of the veterans surveyed by VA said that the regular visits helped them to feel less lonely, and 77% said the experience increased their overall well-being. Volunteers also said that they loved having this opportunity to connect with veterans.

Compassionate Contact Corps has already been initiated in several places across the country, and VA is gradually expanding to include more locations. Veterans who would like to be matched with a volunteer can ask a clinician or advocate for a referral to get started. Volunteers who want to get involved should contact their local VA to find out when training is available.

If your area doesn’t have training scheduled for Compassionate Contact Corps yet, let VA staff know that you are interested in helping bring the program to your community. In the meantime, consider other ways to serve veterans at a distance during the month of February. Lodges could sponsor a Superbowl party, collaborate with a classroom or Scouting troop to create Valentine’s Day cards for veterans, or initiate an Adopt-a-Veteran program in your Lodge.

You can find more activity ideas on our Adopt-a-Veteran page, or find out what other Lodges are doing on the ENVSC news page.


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