Beyond other impacts, COVID-19 has caused a sharp decline in volunteerism and placed heavy burdens on nonprofits.
That includes the Disabled American Veterans, or DAV, and its transportation network, which has helped veterans get to and from medical appointments since the government-run system shut down in 1987. The nationwide network gives veterans free rides to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and clinics. Before 2020, volunteers drove over one million hours and over 20 million miles, providing more than 600,000 rides each year.
“We’ve seen a major decline over the past year in volunteer support,” said John Kleindienst, national voluntary services director at DAV. An August 2020 survey by Fidelity Charitable found the same: Two-thirds of all U.S. volunteers had decreased hours or stopped volunteering because of the pandemic.
DAV predicts above-average demand for rides as restrictions lift and veterans schedule routine appointments and care they postponed. “The pandemic has hurt a lot of veterans who might not get the care they earned without our volunteers,” Kleindienst said.
He’ll hope for the best as people get vaccinated and restrictions are lifted.
“We know there are passionate and dedicated volunteers ready to step up and support our nation’s veterans,’’ Kleindienst said. “We just hope it will be enough to keep pace with the veterans in need."
If you are a veteran in need of support or want to learn more about volunteer opportunities in your community, go to dav.org/volunteer.