Baseball’s Opening Day is full of time-honored traditions: the President throws out the first ball, the Cubs’ starting pitcher walks away with a 54.00 ERA, the Royals get mathematically eliminated from the pennant race.
As the main fundraising arm of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), the Purple Heart Foundation supports a variety of programs and services that help improve the lives of active-duty service members, veterans, and military families. The Foundation’s activities since 2008 have generated over $42 million for MOPH, which currently operates 478 chapters across the United States.
Although membership in the Order is limited to recipients of the Purple Heart Medal, the organization advances programs that assist all veterans, regardless of rank or service history. The Purple Heart Foundation works throughout the year to ensure that MOPH can continue working for its 46,000 members as well as the millions of other individuals who have served their country. The following provides an overview of how funds raised through the Foundation are put to good use.
Helping Military Families Receive the Benefits They Deserve
The majority of MOPH’s $9.75-million annual budget goes to its National Service Program, which helps veterans and their families obtain military benefits. A MOPH-funded staff comprising more than 100 accredited National Service Officers supports the program full time. The officers work alongside volunteers to educate veterans and help them file benefits claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The program also provides legal representation for veterans whose VA claims have been denied.
During the 2017 fiscal year, MOPH Service Officers assisted more than 12,000 veterans in filing VA claims and processing appeals. The officers’ work helped clients obtain nearly $214 million in VA benefits. Along with helping clients through the claims process, the National Service Program oversaw more than 2,000 educational outreach activities in 2017.
Supporting Service Members and Military Groups
In addition to providing grants to MOPH chapters and departments, the Purple Heart Foundation distributes funds directly to veterans and the organizations that support them. The Foundation’s grant program offers rehabilitation and welfare grants to veterans in VA hospitals and other care facilities. The program also funds initiatives that aim to improve the public’s understanding of military and US history.
When looking to fund other veterans’ organizations, the Purple Heart Foundation prioritizes those that are working to advance research into service-related injuries and conditions. The Foundation focuses specifically on helping groups that provide education, training, and/or treatment in the areas of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Past funding helped establish the National Intrepid Center of Excellence Satellite Center, a Fort Hood-based facility that provides rehabilitation services for veterans dealing with PTSD, TBI, and other conditions.
Funding Scholarships for Higher Education
Annual funding raised by the Purple Heart Foundation enables MOPH to award approximately 80 college scholarships each year. The MOPH Scholarship Program is open to MOPH members, including Purple Heart recipients as well as their spouses and direct descendants. While their size varies depending on annual funding, the scholarships typically provide around $2,500 to help recipients pay for tuition, books, fees, and other school-related costs.
Enhancing the VA Health Care System
Another major component of MOPH’s work is its Veterans Affairs Volunteer Services (VAVS) program. With the support of volunteers and Purple Heart Foundation funding, the VAVS program provides support services and enrichment activities for veterans in the VA health care system.
VAVS volunteers work in VA hospitals, clinics, and other care facilities to provide clerical assistance, nursing and outpatient support, and transportation services. Volunteers also use Foundation funding to take veteran patients on fun outings in the community. The services provided by the VAVS program enrich veterans’ lives while helping the VA health care system save millions of dollars each year.
Providing Service Dogs to Veterans
The Purple Heart Foundation supports NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services) and its Service Dogs for Veterans program. Through the program, NEADS provides service dogs at no cost to veterans with physical disabilities, hearing difficulties, progressive health conditions, or combat-related stress disorders. NEADS trains the dogs to assist with a variety of tasks depending on the needs of the veterans they serve. Since founding the program in 2006, the organization has provided dogs to more than 100 US-based veterans.
Advocating for Veterans’ Rights
MOPH advocates at the local, state, and federal levels to represent the interests of veterans throughout the country. The Purple Heart Foundation helps advance MOPH’s advocacy activities, which include its annual March on the Hill event. In the past, the Order has fought for a number of issues alongside other veterans’ groups.
Currently, MOPH is pursuing legislative priorities focused on several areas, including veterans’ health care and benefits. Ensuring that veterans and active-duty service members can access the education and employment opportunities needed to attain success outside of the military is also a major priority. In addition, the organization is working to protect the prestige and purpose of the Purple Heart Medal. MOPH’s ongoing work in this area includes efforts to establish August 7 as National Purple Heart Day.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
You will be someone’s best thing.