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Unemployment Relief Funds ‘put food on the table’ for pandemic affected veterans

Air Force veteran Amber Frymark watched as income from her veteran-owned business slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, business insurance, storage fees and administrative costs were still due. Scheduled demos of her award-winning product — a beverage enhancer that adds health, hydration and flavor to beverages — which were main sales channels for her business, were cancelled due to social-distancing. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many ill and injured veterans, like Amber, found themselves out of work or at risk of losing their disabled veteran-owned small businesses. The bottom line was that veterans and their families were losing income, and DAV had to find a way to help them put food on the table and pay their bills. Urgent needs warranted immediate actions

Within days, DAV launched an emergency campaign to raise critical funds for the DAV COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Program, and generous supporters stepped up to help. Those funds made a difference to Amber, and to many other disabled veterans.

“The DAV relief fund enabled me to pay some of my disabled veteran small business bills,” says Amber. “DAV has felt like a long, lost brotherhood since I came home from service. DAV has been there for my many steps of the way. Their faith in me has empowered me to empower other veterans.”

As of August 17th, more than 6,500 disabled veterans have been approved for $250 in emergency relief funds. And if you’ve ever wondered about the impact of $250 in a time of crises, be assured that those dollars matter in the life of a veteran in need.

Malia D., a service-connected Coast Guard veteran who takes care of her grandchildren, was at risk of having her utilities turned off and watched as overdue bills mounted.

“I had no idea that the DAV offered financial assistance,” Malia D. a service-connected Coast Guard veteran told us. “During the pandemic, I had $42 in my checking account, a utility cutoff notice and overdue bills. It was another ten days before I would get my monthly VA disability check.” 

Malia rationed the food she ate so that her grandson didn’t go without. 

“My grandson asked if I was eating, because I had no food in the refrigerator and, when I ate, my portion size was smaller than his,” she says. “The DAV check came just in time. I was able to pay a bill and buy food. The process to request funds was easy and quick. DAV does more than buy trucks. Thank you for making a difference!”

For many ill and injured veterans, their own medical conditions meant they were particularly vulnerable to the virus, and that risk impacted their ability to work.

Kathleen, a disabled Navy veteran in Florida and a private duty nurse with many geriatric patients, found that the pandemic meant she could no longer take patients because of her own health condition, which put her in a high-risk category. Continuing work could also put her son, who has asthma, at risk. Absent the scope of work and income that she depended on, it wasn’t long before the money to feed her three middle schoolers was exhausted. 

“The COVID Relief Fund I was awarded all went to food—all of it,” says Kathleen. “I was able to buy food…I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to feed my three teenagers! I volunteer for an organization that feeds families who are struggling, and I never thought that would be me, but it was. I am very grateful for the relief fund and so were my children. God bless you all.”

When John, a disabled Army veteran in Kentucky, reached out to DAV for relief funds, he found the quick response to be “remarkable” and a “huge stress relief” to his financial circumstances.

“The fact that DAV COVID Relief Fund is open to all eligible disabled veterans regardless of DAV membership affiliation, confirms how the DAV organization unbiasedly prioritizes the need of the veteran and not our membership status.” 

Richard Lilljedahl, a retired disabled veteran with more than 22 years of service in both the Navy and Army and who last deployed to Iraq in 2007, saw his family-owned business impacted by the pandemic. With two teenage children, one in college, the relief funds mattered greatly to him and his family.

“This has been such a challenging time, and words cannot begin to express the thanks I send to DAV on behalf of myself, my wife and my two children,” Richard writes in a thank-you message to DAV. “Your assistance during this extremely difficult time in our lives has helped our family so much and has taken a massive weight off mine and my wife’s shoulders.”

Air Force veteran Kristopher Miller had just lost his job and thought he had another lined up, but it fell through because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The money that DAV gave me helped me put food on the table for five weeks and was instrumental in allowing me to figure out what to do,” says Kristopher. “I now have a new job and I can say I am very, very grateful to have the help from DAV.”

By March, Army veteran Kathern Hassoune and her husband were both out of work. She filed for unemployment, food assistance and medical assistance, but all were taking a while to process. 

“We were still maintaining the minimum with my VA disability payments, but it was becoming a struggle,” says Kathern. “The process for the DAV assistance was so easy and quick. It was extremely helpful for us as we were able to allocate it for groceries until the other applications had finished processing.”

The gratitude expressed by these veterans is humbling, and their words are indicative of the wide scope of need that DAV works to meet for ill and injured veterans every day. When they need it most, disabled veterans must know that they can count on DAV to be there for them.

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