How to Find a Veterans Community at Home

Get resources for connecting once you return to civilian life.

Two men sitting side by side

Medically reviewed in May 2022

Updated on May 9, 2022

For many United States service personnel, transitioning from active duty to civilian life isn't easy. Some Veterans may feel lost or isolated or may have few people in their lives who understand their experiences. Others may crave order and miss the discipline of the military. And many have had service experiences that can affect their ability to adjust.

One survey from the Pew Research Center found that almost half (47 percent) of post-9/11 Veterans said reentry was difficult for them. About half said they had emotionally traumatic or distressing experiences related to their service, but only one-third found professional help for mental health issues. Additionally, only about half of Veterans felt that the military prepared them for a smooth transition back to civilian life.

These re-acclimation issues may be compounded by or contribute to issues linked to military service. Veterans have an increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and suicide. According to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) report released in September 2021, the suicide rate among Veterans rose by 35.9 percent from 2001 to 2019 (compared to a rise of 33 percent among the non-Veteran population). Suicide rates are generally highest among Veterans between the ages of 18 and 34, but in 2019, Veterans between 55 and 74 years old made up 38.6 percent of suicide deaths among Veterans, accounting for the largest portion.

Statistics like these can be troubling, but there is good news: Finding communities of other Veterans may ease the transition to civilian life—and there are many organizations that can help provide these connections. Through them, Veterans can establish social networks, share experiences, or get advice on easing the jump into a new routine.

Veterans' groups
Comprising or dedicated to Veterans, these organizations assist with transition, provide ways to serve the community, foster connections to other Veterans and active-duty military service members, and much more.

The American Legion: Launched in 1919, this national not-for-profit organization is committed to service. It helps Veterans secure their VA benefits and provides career assistance for job placement, among many other functions. The American Legion has a member base of nearly 2 million Veterans and an estimated 13,000 community hubs. Learn more by visiting the website or calling 800-433-3318.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW): Service, advocacy, and camaraderie among Veterans are the three cornerstones of the VFW mission. Since 1899, this 1.5-million-member nonprofit group has done a world of good. Use the Find a Post page on the VFW website to locate a group near you where you can meet other Veterans and learn about education and community initiatives, among other programs.

Wounded Warrior Project (WWP): Focusing on physically and psychologically wounded post-9/11 Veterans, WWP offers a variety of mental health, wellness, and support programs. These include initiatives like the combat PTSD and stress recovery program, designed to help those with mental health conditions, and peer support programs available across the country. To find out if you have a peer group located in your home state or city, visit the website or call 888-997-2586.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: Connection is a top priority for this 425,000-member group. While there are many services available, the VetTogether program is notable for its focus on local connections and "camaraderie in your community" through gatherings and events.

Find more groups focused exclusively on Veterans' issues and social connections at GreatNonprofits.

Groups with Veteran programs
While many organizations are focused entirely on Veterans, some non-military companies, groups, and nonprofits have smaller programs or divisions dedicated to helping Veterans and their families connect with others.

The Sierra Club, a national nonprofit devoted to protecting the environment, provides wilderness escapes for Veterans called the Military Outdoors program. The trips last a few days and run throughout the year. Outward Bound, another nonprofit focused on wilderness journeys, has a similar program called Outward Bound for Veterans—and many of the courses are free.

Sometimes, people who support Veterans need to connect, too. American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network offers peer groups, a mentorship program, and an online community, among other benefits.

To find non-military organizations with Veterans' programs, it's best to take it case by case. Search online or call specific groups you're interested in to explore their options.

Crisis helplines for Veterans
No Veteran or family member needs to feel alone. If you or a loved one is in need of immediate support, you can reach out to one of the numbers below.

  • Veterans Crisis Line: This phone line is available 24 hours a day for active duty/reserve and guard members, as well as Veterans and their family and friends. There are three ways to reach them: via online secure chat, text (phone number: 838255), or by calling 800-273-8255 and selecting 1.
  • Vets 4 Warriors: This 24/7-support phone line provides peer support to Veterans of all ages who need help dealing with a physical, mental, or social change. Though the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Guard Bureau supported the organization when it initially launched, it now works independently. To reach the team, dial 855-838-8255.

Returning from service and transitioning back to civilian life can have its obstacles—but finding a supportive community should not be one of them.

Article sources open article sources

Pew Research Center. The American Veteran Experience and the Post-9/11 Generation. Page last reviewed September 10, 2019.
U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. Page last reviewed September 2021

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