There are so many wonderful veterans charities that could really use our support right now for all they do. From scholarship funds for families of fallen soldiers, to support just for women veterans, to service dog training or the construction of adaptive homes, the work these veterans charities is doing is meaningful, it’s innovative, and it’s really needed.
While there’s a great list of top-rated veterans charities on Charity Navigator to help you pare down the thousands of military-related American charities. I’ve spent a lot of time going through them, and pulled out a few that are trusted, well-rated organizations, and do impactful work, each with a different focus. Hopefully there’s one here that speaks to you.
Some you may know, lots your may not; honestly I was excited to find some new-to-me orgs that offer the kind of support you don’t generally hear much about. It’s one more way for us to look for the helpers — and be one ourselves — when things are feeling dire in the world.
Updated for 2023
Top image: © The Gary Sinise Foundation
11 top-rated veterans charities that you may not know
I actually moaned when I saw an ad on TV recently that said something like, our veterans fought hard for our country, and now we’re fighting hard to bring you these great deals at our annual Veteran’s Day sale…I mean, are you kidding me? I love sales as much as the next shopper, but I’m uncomfortable that googling “Veteran’s Day” might give you the impression that it has something to do with deals on small appliances and mattress overstocks.
So what can we do on Veteran’s Day to honor some of our nation’s heroes? A sizable percentage of veterans are hoping that we all do something instead of just saying “thank you for your service.” Volunteering is one way to give back to military families. And of course, charitable contributions are always welcome.
So here’s a thought: if you are shopping for deals, consider rounding up your purchase to the next $10 or adding 10% (or more), then donate that amount to an impactful charity supporting veterans and their families.
Of course if you’re not shopping, you can still make a donation or find ways to volunteer. It makes a difference.
© Grace Under Fire : Their veterans’ retreat for retired servicewomen
National Veteran’s Foundation (NVF) has supported hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families who are enduring a crisis or have an immediate, critical need for help. It was founded by former Army Medical Service Officer Shad Meshad, who served in Vietnam, and pioneered treatment techniques for what would later become known as PTSD. They also provide the essential Lifeline for Vets vet-to-vet emergency hotline, at 888-777-4443.
Operation Rise and Conquer is a project of the Adaptive Sports Center. It was created in 2013 to provide high-quality adventure activities for military service personnel and first responders with disabilities. But ASC has been around since 1987, and grew in prominence a year later thanks to a significant contribution from President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
The Gary Sinise Foundation supports our veterans in lots of ways, but one of the most impactful is through the R.I.S.E. initiative (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), which builds and provides specially adapted smart homes, mobility devices, and adapted vehicles to those who need it. (One of the beneficiary families shown at top)
© Children of Fallen Patriots
Children of Fallen Patriots provides college scholarships and educational assistance to the children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. They’ve assisted more than 1500 students attending schools from community colleges to the Ivy League. But with more than 20,000 dependents having lost a parent over the past 35 years, they hope to help a lot more families what they believe is the single most important gift they can give.
Stephen Siller Tunnel 2 Towers Foundation: Gold Star Family Home Program works to provide completely mortgage-free homes to surviving military spouses with young children. Tunnels 2 Towers was founded to support the families of fallen first responders and military personnel ion honor of Brooklyn Firefighter Stephen Stiller, who gave his live on 9/11 while saving others.
Grace After Fire (above) is a Texas-based org founded 2008 by Navy vet Mea Williams, helping assist women veterans with the transition process and reintegration back into the civilian sector. They focus on gender-specific challenges, women-to-women peer group counseling, and financial assistance for immediate needs. While they aren’t as big as some of the other veterans charities here, they’re really respected, receiving support from trusted organizations including the Texas Veterans’ Commission, The United Way, and Americorps.
(And for more charities dedicated exclusively to women veterans, check out this helpful page on Operation We Are Here.)
© Semper Fi Fund: The Jinx McCain Horseman Program
Semper Fi Fund is an incredibly impactful fund supporting wounded and ill veterans with numerous programs, from financial aid and caregiver support, to transitional work programs, to a comprehensive integrated wellness program. They even offer family support, including kids’ camps and retreats. One particularly unique offering: the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program (above).
Higher Ground USA is an organization dedicated to providing adaptive sports recreational therapy for those with developmental and physical disabilities, and they offer a dedicated Veterans and First Responders Program specifically to provide week-long recreational programs for veterans and active duty military with “invisible injuries” like PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or sexual trauma. Whether they’re bass fishing in Texas, skiing in Idaho, or ice climbing in upstate New York, it gives veterans an opportunity to live their best quality of life. Higher Ground also claim to be the only program of its kind in the US that invites the spouse or other partner/supporter to be part of the journey, and form a complete unit.
Tim and Cyprus, © Freedom Service Dogs of America
Freedom Service Dogs of America is a wonderful organization that has a veterans service dog program dedicated exclusively to veterans working to overcome PTSD or struggling with mobility challenges, and need a dog for both support and actual assistance with tasks like turning lights on and off or helping them perform daily living tasks. The organization can also use volunteers to help raise puppies into service dogs, in Colorado and a few satellite locations around the US.
David Lynch Foundation: Operation Warrior Wellness is the military division of the filmmaker’s highly rated 15-year-old charity, The Center for Resilience, which is dedicated to healing traumatic stress through transcendental meditation. The Resilient Warrior Fund accepts donations to provide TM training specifically to vets at no charge, to help offer a path to the hundreds of thousands of US veterans who suffer from PTSD and other mental health issues. I’m particularly impressed with their relationship with the Bronx VA Resilience and Wellness Center, a successful program focused on suicide prevention.
The Trevor Project, while not a veterans charity per se, is doing outstanding advocacy and legal work in support of LGBTQ+ active and retired service members along with their families. They support fully funded, LGBTQ+ competent mental health services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. They’ve also filed several amicus briefs in support of current and prospective transgender service members, joining a long list of organizations in their support, including the HRC, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the American Medical Association, along with multiple former military officers, retired Surgeons Generals, top national security officials, and 18 state Attorneys General.