National Association for Black Veterans: Serving and Making a Difference for More Than 50 Years
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By SAUNDRA YOUNG
The National Association for Black Veterans is on a mission to make sure veterans who laid their lives on the line for this country have a place to live when they get home by helping them understand the benefits and programs available to them.
Established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1969 by seven Vietnam combat veterans, NABVETS has split the country into nine regions, have chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as the Dominican Republic. Today they have approximately 5,000 members.
Each region has a commander that oversees the chapters in their region, addressing their needs, providing leadership training and guidance on how to navigate through the VA.
Much of their focus now is on what they see as one of the most pressing issues _ ending homelessness. They advocate for all veterans with claims against the VA, but especially for African American, women, disabled, homeless, incarcerated veterans or veterans of limited means. They reach out to state legislators and administrators, county and city officials and other agencies championing issues of importance to low income and minority veterans.
Their goal is to assure veterans get the respect and treatment they deserve, as well as the services to which they are entitled.
In 1988, NABVETS officially became a national service organization certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to represent veterans filing claims for their benefits, and if necessary, represent them before the Board of Veterans Appeals.
Katherine Washington-Williams, NABVETS Region VIII Commander said their members are connected through their shared experiences.
“Most of the veterans in NABVETS have been homeless or have at some point in their life gone through something and somebody in the organization reached out and helped them and they’re a part of NABVETS now.”
They have programs that provide food and water and hold clothing drives. In the winter months they make sure homeless vets have access to blankets, coats, socks, gloves, and other items necessary to stay alive on the streets when temperatures drop. They work with schools to provide support for children in need. Much of it is funded from members’ own pockets and veterans who are not homeless but want to help.
Washington-Williams says help for veterans is a phone call away at 910-920-3193. “To those of my brothers and sisters who are living on the street, if you need help you can call the National Association for Black Veterans.
If you call us and we do not answer, within 72 hours we will answer.”
She added, “I don’t care what city you’re in, we have NABVETS chapters all over the world. Between the national commander, myself, and other commanders we will get you with the right person to help you.”
For more information on NABVETS, Inc. visit their website at www.nabvets.org.