Each Nov. 11, we pause to reflect on the sacrifices of those who have served our country.
Veterans Day is an opportunity to express our gratitude, and Indiana owes a great deal to its veterans, past and present. As of 2017, there were nearly 410,000 Hoosier veterans. Today is about honoring all of them.
Veterans Day is also a time to assess our efforts in caring for veterans. At the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, we are focused on serving Hoosier veterans and their families. We want Indiana to be the choice for veterans to live, work and thrive, and we're working to achieve this vision in multiple ways.
We help connect our veterans to the many benefits and services available to them, including employment assistance, education and training, tuition benefits for their children, tax deductions, medical care, mortgage assistance, disability compensation and more. We recently added to our website, in.gov/dva/, a benefits portal that makes it easier for veterans to understand and apply for their benefits.
We also want to help veterans heal. In partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health, we've implemented a pilot program that uses hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a treatment option for veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.
We're tackling homelessness among our veterans' population, too. National statistics show veterans make up about 11% of the adult homeless population, and we want to help eliminate homelessness, especially with our veterans.
Through the recently announced Grants for Veterans' Services program, the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs will award nearly $900,000 in grant money to organizations throughout the state that provide assistance to homeless veterans. The instructions on how to apply for this program are on the department website; grant money will be awarded in early 2020.
The department continually searches for ways to engage with all veterans, and we partner with local, state and national organizations serving Indiana's veterans. We always seek input on how we can support a variety of organizations and help them achieve their missions. Above all, the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs will continue being consistent and transparent in all that we do.
John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Today and every day, we thank our veterans and their families who made or were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe. Now it is our turn to serve them.
Dennis Wimer is the director of the Indiana Department of Veterans' Affairs.