Veterans Day is a chance to reflect on the sacrifices of those who have served our country.

Every Nov. 11, we honor their bravery, commitment to duty and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice. This year, veterans are facing the same difficulties as many Americans during the pandemic, but they often do so while dealing with other challenges related to their service.

At the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA), our mission is to serve, support and advocate for Indiana veterans, families and caregivers. And while 2020 has been a challenging year, we are proud of what we have achieved for our veterans. Indiana Veterans are often the first to volunteer and the last to ask for help. It is imperative we support our veterans and provide assistance when they need it most. The IDVA Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF) aims to do just that.

The MFRF provides emergency grants to use for food, housing, utilities, medical services and other essential family support expenses. Last fiscal year, we provided nearly $1.4 million to veterans in need. This year, we’ve expanded the MFRF to help veterans affected by COVID-19, whether they served during wartime or peacetime.

The outstanding leadership and staff at the Indiana Veterans Home (IVH) have ensured residents can live and thrive in a healthy and caring environment. Using a BD Veritor rapid COVID-19 antigen testing device, IVH has been able to safely administer tests for staff and residents onsite. Along with early and continued adoption of protocols for visitation, personal protective equipment, physical distancing and sanitation, the rapid testing is helping to keep our resident population safe during the pandemic.

IDVA has extended our mission to those addressing homelessness among our veteran population. Through the Grants for Veterans Services (GVS) program, IDVA awarded more than $875,000 to 13 organizations across the state that assist homeless veterans. From providing access to housing and employment assistance, to offering therapeutic services and mental health support, these organizations are doing the necessary and important work to improve the lives of this veteran community.

For the first time, we joined other states in recognizing Women Veterans Day on June 12. There are more than 33,000 women veterans in Indiana and IDVA is committed to providing them with equal access to resources, benefits and health care.

In July, IDVA moved our offices to the historic Indiana Veterans Center in downtown Indianapolis at 777 N. Meridian Street. The newly renovated space allows us to provide centralized services and resources for veterans. IDVA partners, who are making their home at the Indiana Veterans Center, include INVets, representatives from Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Federal VA Healthcare, VA Benefits, and VA Homeless Prevention Teams. Veterans will be able to access the help and resources they need in one location, one trip, one stop.

For millions of Americans, the pandemic has caused the types of hardship, uncertainty and pain that veterans and their families know all too well. But as WWI veteran Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”

The pandemic has taught us new ways to communicate and to live. In whatever way is possible for you, we urge you to contact a veteran today. Thank them for their service to the state of Indiana and our great country.

Dennis Wimer is the director of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs

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