Lack of visibility leaves veteran spouses without resources
Who tracks the millions of military spouses after their spouses transition to civilian life? No one, apparently. Despite a wealth of information about veterans, there is virtually no data about their spouses.
Veteran spouses often make unknown sacrifices of their own, both during and post military life. But those sacrifices aren’t measured or analyzed. The result? Very few support programs and resources for veteran spouses exist.
Everyone for Veterans is working to change that.
We recognize that veteran spouses serve, too. That’s why Everyone for Veterans is proud to provide services to veteran spouses.
The Everyone for Veterans team believes that it’s fundamentally important to provide care to both the veteran and veteran spouse. And, as a veteran spouse, I couldn’t agree more.
When both spouses are in desperate need of dental care and only one qualifies, the imbalance says a lot.
A look at the data about veteran spouses…
Today, there are roughly 18.8 million U.S. military veterans. Nearly 60% are married, which equates to approximately 11.2 million veteran spouses.
Contrary to popular belief, not all veterans receive Veterans Administration (VA) health care benefits, dental care benefits or some type of pension. Even fewer veteran spouses qualify for any type of benefit.
In the most recent census, 1.2 million veterans reported an income that’s below the poverty line. About 60% of them are married. So, we can estimate that 720,000 veteran spouses are also living below the poverty line. It’s unlikely they can afford dental care – and highly unlikely that they qualify for VA dental care benefits.
Veteran spouses are also more likely to be the caregiver for their veteran. The VA, which tracks caregiving, estimates there are almost 5.5 million caregivers caring for veterans today. 70% of those caregivers are a spouse or partner. 96% are women. They provide care for an average of 10 years.
We’re playing fast and loose with the math here, but you get the picture. Today, tens of thousands of veteran spouses can’t afford, or can’t access, dental care. The reasons are many, but the result is the same. Veteran spouses in desperate need of free and comprehensive dental care.
Military spouses become veteran spouses
Eventually, most military spouses will become veteran spouses. Military spouses play a fundamental role in supporting the military service of their soldier, sailor, or airman – but this work is often unseen and unmeasured.
Military spouses are the solo parents and family caregivers during frequent deployments. They manage all aspects of family and home life. They also face multiple barriers to employment, resulting from many causes, including frequent moves, lack of childcare and living in remote locations.
Simply stated, there are knock on effects to being a military spouse.
These factors – and many more – are what inspires the Everyone for Veterans team to support veteran spouses.
Everyone for Veterans is here to help
Everyone for veterans is honored to support veterans experiencing financial hardship, who have completed at least one enlistment period, and who have been honorably discharged. We are also proud to serve the spouses of these veterans – and shine a light on our nation’s veteran spouses.
We encourage veterans and veteran spouses to reach out for more information. And for all our advocates and champions, please continue spreading the word about our services and how we can help.
On behalf of the entire Everyone for Veterans team, we extend heartfelt thanks to all veterans and veteran spouses for your service and dedication.
Suzanne Lee is a member of Everyone for Veterans Board of Directors. She is also a proud veteran spouse. Go Air Force!
May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, and this year we would like to recognize our founder and board president, Dr. Theresa Cheng. Dr. Cheng is a true champion for veterans and an advocate for veterans' oral health. Her passion for service and support has been a source of inspiration to many.
Dr. Cheng was born in Taiwan to Chinese parents. Her parents escaped from Beijing in 1949 with only the clothes on their backs and did not get to see their remaining families for 40 years. They were recent college graduates at that time and quickly became refugees. Her mom credits her faith and the assistance of the Catholic churches and schools in supporting their refugee journey until they reached Taiwan about a year later. Her parents were both teachers and were able to get employment. After having 6 children, they were recruited to teach in Malaysia. Theresa was just 4 years old when they moved. Life was not easy growing up in Malaysia, but she had great fun, roaming the forests and hills around their home and playing with bugs, chickens, cats and dogs. However, school and schoolwork were always the priority, and there was an unspoken expectation for her and her siblings to do well in school and they did. Their family did not have much, and she was keenly aware to be appreciative of what they have and to help others who are less fortunate and in need.
After high school, she won the opportunity to be an exchange student to the U.S. for a year-long program with the American Field Service program (AFS). She was the first Malaysian in Lake Mills, WI. She had great fun sharing information and answering questions about Asians and Malaysia to the community and her high School. One of her classmates shared years later that it opened his eyes to the world and he went on to join the Peace Corps. Theresa said that this was a significant year of mindfulness, learning how to handle the challenges of social, emotional, and psychological aspects.
Theresa moved to Seattle in 1983 for her Periodontics Residency. She graduated as the first female Asian periodontist from University of Washington Periodontics Department in 1985. She was invited to join two private practices, one in Seattle and the other in Bellevue. In 1990, she opened her own practice in Issaquah, WA, limited to the practice of Periodontics and Implants, serving the community for 30 years.
She gave back in various capacities in the community, from volunteering at the local food bank, at church, Habitat for Humanity, Washington Women In Need, and more. Professionally, she volunteered on various committees and boards, including the Washington State Dental Association and the Washington Dental Quality Assurance Committee.
In 2008, Dr. Cheng started a grassroots effort to help veterans and their spouses receive free dental care. She worked tirelessly and grew this to be an award winning national charitable organization, Everyone for Veterans, founded in 2017. Her dedication to helping veterans has not gone unnoticed. She has been honored with numerous awards, including the 2017 Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs Superior Service Award and the 2021 American Dental Association Humanitarian of the Year Award.
Thank you, Dr. Cheng, for all you do!
Today, we are excited to announce that Everyone for Veterans is a top 50 finalist for the 2023 Classy Awards.
Classy, an affiliate of GoFundMe, is a Public Benefit Corporation and giving platform that enables nonprofits to connect supporters with the causes they care about. Classy's platform provides powerful and intuitive fundraising tools to convert and retain donors. Since 2011, Classy has helped nonprofits mobilize and empower the world for good by helping them raise over $5 billion.
Classy hosts the Classy Awards to spotlight the innovative work nonprofits are implementing around the globe. We’re proud to share that our No-Cost Comprehensive Dental Program is recognized for its contribution to serving veterans and their families in need.
Everyone for Veterans collaborates with civilians and professionals to provide free comprehensive dental care and other services to veterans and their families across the nation. We recruit dental professionals to provide pro-bono dental services in the communities where the veterans live. Few realize the VA provides dental care exclusively to veterans with a 100% disability rating, former POWs, or who have a service-related dental condition. Our veterans often spend a lifetime with urgent care at low-cost dental clinics but never accomplish a healthy dental state. E4V's comprehensive care model, not only resolves current dental issues but sets them up for long-term oral and overall health, breaking the cycle of perpetual urgent care.
This year, 11 Classy Awards will be distributed including the People’s Choice Award, which is determined by public vote. We encourage you to vote here for Everyone for Veterans today.
Voting is open from April 6th to April 25th. Winners will be announced on June 7th at Collaborative by Classy, and we look forward to sharing updates with our community then.
For more information on the Classy Awards, visit awards.classy.org.
Everyone for Veterans is proud to serve the spouses of our nation’s veterans and recognize their dedication and committed contribution. One of our recent veteran spouses is Rhonda, a retired EMT with nearly 40 years in the field. Rhonda met her husband Larry when they were in 8th grade and even then, Larry knew that she was the one, asking her to be his wife when they were 13 years old.
Larry deployed to Vietnam with the Marines and was shot in combat. He suffered significant nerve damage from his wounds and was honorably discharged from service. Upon his return, the couple was married and celebrated 52 wonderful years together until Larry passed away in the summer of 2022.
When Rhonda came to E4V in January of last year, she was suffering from tremendous pain and discomfort. A serious illness had impacted her oral health dramatically. We assigned her to Dr. Kevin Shively in Lubbock, TX. His team provided compassionate comprehensive care including 16 crowns, a root canal, and a nightguard. The whole team was so happy to be able to assist her in providing her new smile.
Now that Rhonda is healthy and pain-free, she is continuing her lifetime of service by volunteering at Spirit of Sharing, helping the community by providing clothes, food, and essential needs. Rhonda said about her experience, "Dr. Shively and staff are so great! The dental care I received feels wonderful and for the first time, I can eat normally."
Each day, E4V’s partnering dentists represent the love of the community. Dr. Shively had this to say about his experience, “when Rhonda came to see me, she had seen me previously at the practice I used to own, so it was like rekindling an old friendship! Seeing her transformation and her gratitude for the services we provided really reinvigorated my spirit, as it reminded me so deeply of one of the core reasons I pursued dentistry in the first place to give people back their smile and transform their lives!”
Thank you, Dr. Shively and team, for supporting Rhonda during this time, and thank you Rhonda for your lifetime of service.
This month we are honored to share an incredible 4-part series about the legacy of service and how our actions can impact future generations. This week we are grateful for the opportunity to share a letter from Dr. Hoosik Najarian. Read on to hear in his own words what this experience meant to him.
On this particular day, my office manager, Amanda, was engaged in a conversation with Thomas about how his mom and her husband were teachers. When I went to the reception area to greet Thomas, Amanda asked me what Junior High School did I attend because Thomas’ mother had taught math with the Glendale Unified School District. When I mentioned the school, Thomas said that was where his mother taught for 25 plus years. Lo and behold, Thomas’ mother was indeed my math teacher! I was shocked and ecstatic, not to mention happy and speechless, because Mrs. Armitstead was my most favorite teacher during my Junior High School years! I shared that his mother was extremely supportive of me and always had my back in school. She took me under her wings when I was 14 years old and really struggling to find my place, not only in school but in America.
My family had moved from Tehran, Iran to California in the Spring of 1975 for a better life. Upon my arrival, I did not speak or understand any English which was hard adapting to this new school. Mrs. Armitstead welcomed me in to her class and introduced me to the other students. She asked me to take a seat in the second row, right in front of her desk and where I could see the days lesson plans written on the transparency board. Since I was good in math, I was usually the first student to solve a math problem so I would raise my hand to give the answer. However, because of my thick Iranian accent, the whole class would laugh at me, causing Mrs. Armitstead to quiet them down. She explained to the class that people all around the world speak English with different accents and that they needed to be tolerant of that...I kept for a month crying at night and begging my parents to send me back to Iran to earn my high school diploma and finish my studies with my friends but was told that was not an option. Mrs. Armitstead realized I was having difficulty adjusting, I was quiet, did not socialize, so she began engaging me during class. Her classroom was always open [to] spend lunch where I could read and write.
When I opened my own Dental practice, I always wanted to volunteer and help out our soldiers. I love dentistry and the skills I learned in Dental School has given me the opportunity to provide dental care to our veterans. Thomas Armitstead served for us so we can all enjoy our freedoms that we have in this country.
We are able to enjoy our lives, freedoms to live, and travel because of the men and women who serve our country. It’s because they are creating an environment where we can all flourish and grow. Our servicemembers are the backbone of this great country. They need to be supported after they return from serving and they should not be faced with whether or not they can get healthcare.
I will be forever grateful for the Mrs. Armitsteads for raising such beautifully devoted children, so that the rest of us can enjoy the life and livelihoods we have now. A little bit of gratitude will go a long way and I enjoy knowing that I was able to provide Thomas with good dental care.
Years ago a wonderful teacher helped me during a very sad and bleak time and then to find out that the young man that I was helping out was her son, well, God truly does exist. It warms my heart and soul knowing that kindness and compassion still exists in this world and what goes around does indeed come around.
Dr. Hoosik Najarian
Recently Everyone for Veterans hosted our annual Veterans Town Hall event in Covington, WA. At every Town Hall, we have the opportunity to listen and learn from veterans about their unique experiences. One moving perspective came from Matthew Hinerman (pictured above, left), as he compared the experience of being a combat veteran with that of a working dog. Many of us were deeply impacted by his perspective and we are grateful for the opportunity to share his words with you.
Matthew said, "I'm sure a lot of you have dogs. There are a lot of different dogs, but there is a group called "working dogs." These are dogs that were bred to, you guessed it, work. To perform a task. To have a purpose. If you own one of these dogs, I hope you're aware of it. If you treat a working dog like a toy, sporting, or other category, you will find yourself in trouble. You can't leave them at home for 8 hours locked up. You'll have things chewed, furniture destroyed, and trash strewn about.
Combat Vets are working dogs. We have had a purpose. We've had a mission. And now we're away from it. And much like the working dogs, left to our own devices, we destroy things. Families, friendships, our own lives.
Like a penned-up working dog, we don't need a blanket. We don't need a never-ending supply of food. Some of us don't need your thanks. We need to be tasked with a mission. We need a purpose. We need to be challenged."
He added, “the short version is this - society currently treats Veterans like we're broken. We've done some things or experienced something and need to be fixed. There has to be something wrong with us. So naturally, when you hear those things, and people treat you that way, you start to believe that it's true. If we stopped treating everyone that is a veteran like they're a broken human, and instead are just people that have unique experiences, I feel like that'd be a move in the right direction.”
Our heartfelt gratitude goes to Matthew and the many veterans that shared their stories with us. Their honesty and vulnerability were profoundly moving. May we all take these words to heart and move in the right direction together.
Whether it’s decorating a tree or enjoying dear family recipes, we all have our favorite winter traditions. To celebrate this magical time of year, we asked our staff about their favorite winter traditions. Here they share what their families enjoy most during this special season.
Jessica, our Executive Director, is obsessed with gingerbread. She looks forward to designing, baking, and decorating a gingerbread house each year. This year’s house featured a gingerbread doghouse in honor of their new puppy, Fergus.
Jen, our Dental Program Manager, makes her mom’s special Thai chili sauce to accompany turkey during their holiday gatherings. This dish honors her family’s Thai heritage and makes the meal an extra special treat.
Alex, our Program Coordinator, celebrates Christmas Eve with an “Around the World” Smörgåsbord. Their delectable spread includes good Swiss bread, cheese fondue, cold cuts, lumpia, pancit, flan, lefse, rice pudding with raspberry sauce, macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes, cookies, pastries, Swiss chocolates, hot cocoa, and apple cider.
What are your family’s favorite traditions? Let us know in the comments.
To every veteran and their family, we thank you for your service and sacrifice to our country. We are grateful for you today and every day.
In honor of Veterans Day, we have compiled a list of businesses providing free and discount offers to veterans and servicemembers this year.
Please note that not all franchise locations participate in their national chain's Veterans Day programs. Be sure contact your local franchise to make sure they are participating.
King County, WA Offers
Free Entrée at Iver’s for veterans and active duty military
Free Buffet at Snoqualmie Casino for veterans
Applebee's: The restaurant chain is welcoming all active-duty and veteran military members to visit their local Applebee's to enjoy a complimentary entrée from a selection of items.
Bed Bath & Beyond: Veterans, active-duty military members and their spouses can get 25% off their entire in-store purchase on Nov. 11.
BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse: BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse will be celebrating the country's veterans and active-duty members with a free meal from their special menu of items and a free Dr Pepper beverage.
Buffalo Wild Wings: All past and present armed services members can get a free order of 10 boneless wings and fries on Nov. 11. The offer is available for dine-in or takeout (online ordering excluded).
Denny's: Veterans can enjoy a free "Build your Own Grand Slam" from 5 a.m. to noon Thursday, Nov. 11.
Dickey's BBQ Pit: Veterans can get a free pulled pork classic sandwich at participating locations for every active duty or retired military on Nov. 11. Valid In-store, and Online/ App for Carryout, with Code VETFREE.
Dollar General: Service members and their family members get 20% off the total purchase in-store or online on Nov. 11-14.
IHOP: Veterans and active-duty military can get free Red, White & Blueberry pancakes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 11. Available for dine-in only, you can RSVP on IHOP's Facebook page.
Kohl's: Kohl’s is doubling its Military Monday discount of 15% to offer all active and former military personnel, veterans and their families 30% off purchases from Nov. 7 through Nov. 11.
Menchie's: The first six ounces of frozen yogurt are free for all veterans on Nov. 11.
Office Depot: All active-duty and retired military personnel get 20% off in-store purchases through Dec. 12, 2021. This coupon and military ID required.
Red Robin: All veterans and active-duty military members will receive a free Tavern burger served with Bottomless Steak Fries at participating restaurants nationwide. The one-time offer is valid Monday, Nov. 1 through Sunday, Nov. 14 for dine-in or to-go. In order to take advantage of the offer, active or former military and veterans must register for Red Robin’s Royalty Program.
Starbucks: Veterans, military service members and military spouses get a free tall (12-oz) hot brewed coffee at participating stores on Nov. 11. And for every cup of hot brewed coffee sold that day, Starbucks is donating 25 cents to be divided evenly between Headstrong and Team Red, White & Blue to support the mental health of military communities.
Target: Veterans, active-duty military members and their families can get 10% off in-store or online orders. The Military Appreciation Discount runs through Nov. 13 and can be used on two separate transactions. Customers must first register at www.target.com/circle/military to confirm eligibility.
Chad served in the Army, stationed in Afghanistan, as an infantryman. Returning stateside, he faced several unique challenges with reintegration and experienced homelessness for about a year. He has worked incredibly hard to get to a place of stability, even opening his own business, using his passion for graphic design to support veterans.
The toll of the pandemic has weighed heavily on him as he was unable to go to a gym.
This is something that is extremely important to his physical and emotional health and wellbeing. He was in need of equipment that would allow him to continue to make physical fitness a priority in his life.
His Wingman Volunteer, Emily engaged her personal network in creative ways to accomplish this mission. She held a Facebook fundraiser and even sold flowers at her college campus to raise funds for Chad’s home gym. Through her dedication, she was able to raise several hundred dollars towards the purchase of martial arts equipment. Now Chad is able to exercise from the comfort and safety of his home. Chad said, “I am so thankful for your organization and all you’ve done for me and other veterans.” We are thankful for you, Chad! Thank you for the opportunity to allow us to work with you.
We are grateful for our Wingman Volunteers, like Emily. Their willingness to partner with us to support combat veterans in need is inspiring.
Become a wingman by visiting our website and clicking "Volunteers" and "Be a Wingman."
Meet the Founder and Board President of Everyone for Veterans, Dr. Theresa Cheng.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
My mother always pointed out the importance of being happy no matter how difficult things are.
What’s your favorite movie or show and why?
I like a lot of movies and shows, but Forrest Gump is a very memorable one. The character, Lieutenant Dan introduced me to the realistic aspect of veteran life that is all around us.
What’s your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is a hawker noodle dish from Malaysia.
What’s your favorite vacation destination and why?
There are so many great vacation destinations, however, one of my favorites is in Gandoca, Costa Rica, a beach in a low income area. We get to work with preserving turtle eggs by patrolling the beaches at night and moving the eggs laid to safe areas. It was hard work but fantastic to learn about and contribute to how the community turned the economy of consuming turtle eggs to preserving them.
The goal of our blog is to keep everyone updated on what Everyone for Veterans has been working on.