Military Veterans’ Healthcare in South Florida: Setbacks and Successes

Florida has the third-largest population of veterans in the United States: 1.43 million former service members call the state home, and over 720,000 of those are 65 or older. With such a large population, wait times for services from the Department of Veterans Affairs can be incredibly long, and many find themselves struggling to pay bills or reenter civilian life due to a lack of social services.

However, there is a growing movement to better support veterans, including a network of nonprofits and universities that recognize the challenges of this population. New technologies and better connectivity to a nationwide community of former service members also promise to provide South Florida veterans with greater advocacy.

Military Veterans’ Healthcare in South Florida

Veterans Affairs Hospitals Lack Modern Comforts

In incredibly disheartening news, some Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities are unmodernized, which can pose major risks for the patients under their care. An anonymous source from the Miami VA Health Care System recently reported to CBS News that air conditioning in the hospital is insufficient to keep veterans cool as they recuperate in rising temperatures, an issue that will only grow more prevalent as climate change makes heat waves more prevalent.

It’s clear that more funding is necessary to modernize these hospitals and better serve veterans, but fortunately, help is on the way. Since the fiscal year 2019, the VA has seen funding rise by over 61%, with a 5.4% increase expected for 2024. This will help to provide much-needed upgrades to facilities, ensuring that more veterans can heal in comfort.

Cost Of Living Increases Ensure Veterans Can Meet Their Needs

The Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment, signed into law by President Biden in June 2023, will assist veterans in meeting their needs through VA compensation, comparable to the Social Security increase for non-military seniors. As food prices and healthcare costs have risen, many veterans have found it difficult to keep up, including paying for healthcare insurance they may have to cover procedures that are out-of-network for their VA insurance. The vital increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs not only ensures that veterans can get world-class healthcare throughout South Florida, but it also will help military service members pay for out-of-pocket premiums, alternative therapies, and home upgrades to better accommodate their disabilities.

South Florida Nonprofits Are Stepping Up

With such a large military population, there are a variety of nonprofits that are ready and willing to assist disabled veterans and their families. One such organization is Easterseals, which provides services such as caretaker respite care, assistance navigating VA benefits, and Day Services for veterans who need assistance while their loved ones are at work or school.

In Broward County, United Way runs the MISSION UNITED program, which provides a range of services to military veterans and their families. These include mentorship programs to help newly discharged members navigate the complex challenges of reintegrating into society and accessing much-needed services. Veterans can attend seminars that cover topics such as staying healthy after service, coping with mental health challenges, and reducing the risk of chronic illnesses.

Housing can be a challenge for veterans, who may need adaptive technologies for their disabilities, or who may struggle to pay their bills due to mental health issues. United Way runs the Housing United program, which strives to provide affordable housing to at-risk individuals, including veterans.

United Way also offers in-home and out-of-home healthcare at no cost to veterans. This is particularly important given that many veterans find their application for VA disability benefits denied upon the first application, meaning that they may find themselves without much-needed support during the appeals process. While the VA is responsible for assisting its service members, nonprofits help to fill the gaps and ensure that no veteran gets left behind when it comes to addressing their most critical health needs.

Online Resources Help Veterans Get Access to VA Disability

One of the most frustrating components of a veteran’s return to civilian life is being able to access the compensation that they are owed from the government, as the application process is lengthy and complex. Thankfully, online resources such as VA disability claims guides are there to lead service members through these challenges, including helping them get referrals to healthcare professionals who can provide them with the necessary nexus statements to prove their claims.

These organizations, which are run by veterans, offer numerous guides and educational materials to improve a veteran’s chance of success at proving their claim. They also have support groups where veterans can connect with others across the country who understand their struggles and are willing to lend advice.

South Florida’s large veteran population is underserved, but conditions are looking up thanks to government investments, nonprofits, and online communities seeking to connect former armed forces personnel with the help they need and deserve. Despite many challenges, a commitment to protecting those who sacrificed so much for our country promises brighter days for every veteran in this region.