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!
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.
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.
What do you do at E4V?
I am the Dental Program Manager. So I assist in connecting dentists to veterans and their spouses.
What about E4V interests you?
My dad retired as a SMSgt in the Air Force so I feel at home being able to assist those who were in the service.
What activities do you do for fun?
I play chess with my son and when I have free time, love to sketch and do various crafts.
What's one of your favorite memories from last year?
Despite the craziness of Covid-19, we welcomed a healthy baby girl and love watching our 15 year old son with her.
What's your favorite food?
My mother is Thai so naturally, Thai food.
What do you do at E4V?
I support the direction and operational leadership of the organization, and work closely with our Board of Directors to build community relationships and partnerships.
What about E4V interests you?
I was born on an Army base and raised by a Navy veteran. The unique challenges that our veterans face is something that is deeply personal to me and close to my heart.
What activities do you do for fun?
Our family loves all things Disney and our favorite place on earth is Main Street, U.S.A. Disneyland churros are a food group for me. I also enjoy cooperative board games, like Mansions of Madness, and escape rooms.
If you could choose a superpower, what would it be and why?
I would go with teleportation. This choice is a little food motivated too; my favorite restaurant is over 7 hours away on the Oregon coast.
Are you into sports? What team do you root for?
I absolutely love college football. I also follow the IFOCE and Major League Eating events around the globe. I’ve been able to attend a handful of sanctioned professional eating competitions and they are absolutely electric!
We are very excited to share the news that E4V has been awarded Guidestar's Platinum Seal of Transparency, the highest-level of recognition for nonprofits reporting metrics.
Offering full visibility and accountability as to how we operate is not only a necessary step for us, but also the cornerstone to maintaining the trust of our supporters, partners, donors, volunteers, and communities.
We are so proud and honored to be able to give back to combat veterans and earning this recognition shows us we're making a positive impact.
Thank you to everyone who believes in us and our mission, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without your support!
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