Postvention Veteran Suicide To-Do Checklist

Postvention Veteran Suicide To-Do Checklist

How To Manage the Minutes and Hours After a Veteran Suicide

Postvention is what called after veteran suicide prevention fails. This failure is usually discovered by a family member. Natural reactions such as shock and the fight or flight response kick in. Once the initial shock simmers, other less natural reactions take over. The urge to call the police, the EMTs and then a funeral home. But what is really happening in those calls will set the course for the rest of the burial process. And they may not be in your best interest. This checklist for what to do after a veteran suicide is one of our most effective tools in limiting the scars of a veteran suicide. See why we’ve chosen this as our mission.

Coroner or Medical Examiner  – make sure you tell them that your loved one was a Veteran. The VA Report on Military Suicides needs better information next time they update it. This will help.

Did they have a PTSD or depression diagnosis? Request that they put that on the death certificate.

Don’t Rush to a Funeral Home – Coroners or Medical Examiners will hold the body for up to 2 months. Once you pick a funeral home and whether to cremate or not, you’re locked into their service or pay a large transfer fee. We have experience in negotiation on your behalf.

Funeral Homes – Not a good fit for families we talk to. Professional but expensive. They’re also cash and carry – some won’t let you see your loved one until their bill is paid-in-full.

Life Insurance Payouts – Most funeral homes will offer to act as a holding/transfer agent for you with the insurance company. They will subtract their fees for your service out of yourmoney. Ask if they charge for that. Don’t like their answer? Contact your agent directly. Their response times can vary significantly.

Biohazard Clean Up – Homeowners insurance may be able to pay or repay the biohazard clean up costs. Landlords or management companies may also have this insurance.

Funeral Homes – Can be helpful, but they are in business to make as much money as possible no matter the circumstances. They should be able to connect with a crematorium if they don’t have one on-site or locally. Many don’t offer that service on-site

Direct Cremations – “A direct cremation all included” is exactly what you should ask for. It is the most affordable service with ashes delivered in one or more urns. Urns start at $75.

Other Financial Resources

County Social Services – Every county in America has a social services office. Call them. They often can help with reasonable funerals, psychadelic.

Local Military Nonprofits – Start with the branch related to your Veteran served. 

Local Faith-Based Outreach Groups

TD Foundation

They grant modest financial aid like us, and they focus on children’s needs, so reaching out to them if you have kids may turn out good. Check out their website and you want to talk to Tom Deierlein – Co-Founder.

Military Aid Society offers grants and loans interest free to retired Veterans. There are two main MASs.

Army Emergency Relief (AER)
7117 Baltzell Ave. Bldg. 7
Ft. Benning, GA
(706) 545-4043 

Contact: Lionel Grant – Military Aid Society

Navy and Marines
There is an equivalent and that information is coming soon.

Go Fund Me – Consider starting a Go Fund Me page. Other families have had success here. Hit or miss but definitely worth the time invested.

Emotional Healing

Your emotional healing may never be complete, but on our site we offer free and drug-free ways to clear your mind and find some peace. Here are some links below to get you started and feel free to roam our blog and the rest of our site for anything that may help.

Click here for PTSD and depression options.

David Lynch Foundation Resilient Warrior Program for learning Transcendental Meditation. 4 in-person lesson. They are currently revising this program during the pandemic.

TAPS.ORG – they are the largest in the nation and it may take a while to hear back from them.

The WATCH Program at 22 Kill – this is a newer program that is similar to Taps’ networking opportunities.

Please feel free to stay in touch in any way that makes you feel better. 

May you find the peace you deserve.

$2,000 And A Thank You Note Is Not Enough

$2,000 And A Thank You Note Is Not Enough

John Rutherford & Once A Soldier Discuss Postvention & Veteran Suicide

On Sunday, October 25th, Once A Soldier hosted an outdoor, socially-distanced speakers forum in St. Augustine called, “Positive Progress” featuring Representative John Rutherford.

The impressive event included in-depth conversations with Once A Soldier Founder, Dave Barbush, board members, Stefanie Stark, and Kevin Jonhs, as well as Dr. Satyen Madkaiker. Each of these speakers touched on the importance of postvention, prioritizing treatment for PTSD, and providing additional funding for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Congressman John Rutherford Speaking at Positive Progress Event

Well-Rounded Discussion Included Father Who Lost A Son To PTSD Veteran Suicide

The event began with moving speeches from our Founder, Dave Barbush, as well as Board President, Stefanie Stark. They both took the time to thank all in attendance, and spoke about why the mission of Once A Soldier is close to their hearts, and how the growth of Once A Soldier has helped numerous veteran families across the nation. 

After our leadership team finished speaking, the guests were treated to an informational speech by Board Certified Psychiatrist, Dr. Satyen Madkaiker. Dr. Madkaiker has had a private practice in Jacksonville since 2003, and has dedicated his career to treating individuals with psychiatric disorders and substance abuse issues. He has emphasized the importance of correctly diagnosing patients, and the use of medications and therapies that are tailor-made for each patient.  Dr. Madkaiker spoke about his extensive experience with evidence-based patient care, medication management, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), and Ketamine Infusion Therapy, and how these treatments can help soldiers and veterans with PTSD.

Following Dr. Madkaiker, Board Member and recipient of one of our first Silver Linings grants, Kevin Johns gave a touching speech about the tragic loss of his son, Jared, to veteran suicide. Kevin spoke eloquently about his son’s life, his military service, and the love he had for his family. He also took the time to speak about the positive impact that Once A Soldier had in his family’s time of immense grief, and the positivity that Once A Soldier continues to bring to his life. 

Finally, as the event concluded, Representative John Rutherford gave an impressive speech detailing his support for our active service members and veterans over his time in office. He also acknowledged that there is still so much more that needs to be done to prevent and treat PTSD. As he continued, Representative Rutherford even reiterated the point that was made repeatedly throughout the evening, that “$2,000 and a Thank You note is not enough” to alleviate the very real mental and emotional scars that are so often the result of active combat. 

This event was a huge success, and Once A Soldier would like to thank everyone who was able to attend. To help Once A Soldier continue to help the families of veterans and soldiers who have committed suicide, consider donating to our organizaiton today! 


Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will.

Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans.

We are the only nonprofit standing with the families after a veteran suicide. Stand with us.

Our Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide.

Assisted Living Benefits for Veterans – A Complete Guide

Assisted Living Benefits for Veterans – A Complete Guide

Reprinted by Permission from The Assisted Living Research Center

Their superb and comprehensive page for Assisted Living Benefits for Veterans can be found here. This repost contains all of their original links, as well as links to their site’s home page. Their research offers more than just raw data and information – they add deep insights and real solutions to problems seniors, caregivers and influencers face every day.

The mission of Assisted Living Research Center is this: We are committed to improving aging adults’ quality of life by leveraging our data-driven research and expert-informed insights to inform critical decisions made by seniors, caregivers, influencers, and leaders in the senior care industry.

Information is power when it comes to getting all the benefits you’re entitled to. Their information is a great asset for those whose lives have been altered by the death of a loved one, a veteran who’s looking for housing, and the families of all concerned. I am pleased that they have shared this information with my audience. Please read on for their guide to Assisted Living for Veterans:

Veterans who are injured in the line of duty face many challenges when they return home, including the inability to live an independent life. Whether fully or partially disabled, many need assistance with daily activities.

Thankfully, there are assisted living options that can help veterans who have disabilities, as well as elderly veterans who need help as they grow older. There are two basic ways for eligible veterans to receive assistance: obtain an assisted living benefit from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or apply for residency in a veteran’s home.

This guide contains information about the benefit programs available from the VA. Read on to learn whether you are eligible, how to apply, and what programs are available in your state.

How Assisted Living Supports Disabled and Senior Veterans

Veterans who come back home with disabilities may no longer be able to live in the homes they left. With some disabilities, veterans have a need for accessible housing, or may need support services if they are unable to live independently.

As they age, elderly veterans experience the same declines in function that all seniors do. When veterans get older, they may be unable to maintain the tasks of independent daily life, including hygiene, housekeeping, and meal preparation.

Assisted living facilities are communities where veterans live in an apartment or rented room. The community typically has shared living spaces, including a dining room and recreational areas with social and entertainment activities. At an assisted living facility, veterans can benefit from trained caregiver assistance, which can offer support for:

  • Hygiene, including bathing, dressing and toileting
  • Housekeeping, including laundry and cleaning
  • Meal preparation
  • Medication reminders
  • Medical care

Assisted Living Benefits from the Veterans Administration

The VA offers increased pensions to pay for assisted living care.

Aid & Attendance and Housebound

Veterans and survivors may be eligible for Aid & Attendance or Housebound allowances. These types of allowances are paid on top of the regular monthly pension. They are sometimes referred to as a VA assisted living benefit, improved pension, or veterans elder care benefits. These benefits are designed to help senior and disabled veterans pay for care offered from an assisted living facility.

While the specific benefit amount depends on your Maximum Annual Pension Rate category, qualifying for Aid & Attendance or housebound status can offer thousands in additional pension benefits each year. A housebound veteran without dependents can get an additional pension benefit of $2,923 annually. A veteran without dependents who qualifies for Aid & Attendance can get an additional $8,796 annually. Note that you can’t receive both an Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefit, only one or the other.

Eligibility: VA pension eligibility is required, which means you must meet certain income and active duty requirements. Additionally, veterans must also be age 65 or older with limited or no income, totally and permanently disabled, a patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, or receiving Supplemental Security Income.

To qualify for Aid & Attendance, veterans or survivors must meet at least one condition:

  • Require the aid of another person for personal functions such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, or adjusting prosthetic devices
  • Bedridden or required to remain in bed except for prescribed courses of convalescence or treatment
  • Nursing home patient due to mental or physical incapacity
  • Eyesight limited to corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less
  • Overall, qualifying for the Housebound monthly pension increase requires you to be effectively confined to your home due to permanent disability.

Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services

With the Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services program, veterans can get help paying for skilled services, case management, and assistance with daily living activities including bathing and meal preparation. The program offers veterans a flexible budget for services and the ability to hire their own personal care aides.

Eligibility: This benefit is part of the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package, so all enrolled veterans are eligible if they are determined to have the clinical need for the service, providing it’s available in their area. Veterans of all ages who served in active military service and were discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable are eligible for the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package. For example, veterans who have served for 24 continuous months or the full period for which they were called to active duty are eligible. Veterans who were discharged for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, or for a hardship or early out are eligible. Those who served prior to September 7th are eligible. Reserves or National guard members who have active duty for training purposes only are not eligible.

Veterans Homes and Assisted Living Facilities

Community Living Centers

VA community living centers are similar to a nursing home and designed to support veterans of all ages with 24-hour skilled nursing care, restorative care, access to social work services, and geriatric evaluation and management. Some centers also provide mental health recovery care, special care for veterans with dementia or other cognitive deficits, respite care, palliative care, and hospice care. There are activities for veterans of all ages and family-friendly visiting areas. Pets are allowed to visit or live in the center, and veterans are invited to decorate their rooms. Typically, veterans stay at community living centers for a short period of time, but some stay for the rest of their lives.

Eligibility: Community living centers accept veterans based on clinical need and setting availability. You must be enrolled in the VA health system and be medically and psychiatrically stable. There are certain criteria for service-connected status, level of disability, and income. Contact your local community living center for more information.

Armed Forces Retirement Home

The Armed Forces Retirement Home is a retirement community for American military veterans. Qualifying veterans can live in the retirement home, which offers activities, meals, wellness programs, and advanced care. The wellness center offers care from a nurse or doctor, pharmacy services, nutrition guidance, physical therapy, occupational therapy, dental care and podiatry care. There are two locations: one in Washington, D.C., and another in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Eligibility: To be considered eligible, veterans of the armed forces must not have been in active, commissioned service for more than half of their career, unless they served as a warrant officer or limited-duty officer. Other requirements include:

At least 60 years of age and discharged or released from service under honorable conditions after 20 or more years of active service
Determined to be incapable of earning a livelihood due to a service-connected disability in the line of duty
Served in a war theater during a time of war, or eligible for hostile fire special pay
Served in a women’s component of the armed forces before June 12, 1948 and eligible for admission under compelling personal circumstances
Veterans must be able to live independently upon admission. However, advanced care with skilled nursing is available if needed later.

State Veterans Homes

State veterans homes offer nursing home, residential care, or adult day care services. Although they are formally recognized and certified by the VA, State Veterans Homes are owned and operated by each individual state. Homes may receive payments from the VA to reduce the cost of care.

Eligibility: Like Community living centers, state veterans homes accept veterans based on clinical need and setting availability. Eligibility and admission criteria will vary by state, as each state sets it own criteria. Contact your local state veterans home to learn about eligibility and admission. Typically, homes require that veterans are honorably discharged from military service with a minimum of 90 days of service, of which one was during a wartime period, must be a resident of the state during the immediate past 12 months, a recent medical exam showing that a veteran does not need care that exceeds that of the home, and not have felony or fugitive status.

Working With A Veterans Benefits Planner

There are many benefits available to veterans, and it’s not always easy to understand how to qualify for or make the most of available benefits. Veterans benefits planners offer veterans or surviving spouses guidance for available benefits and can offer assistance with applications, representation, and appeals.

How Veterans Benefits Planners Help

Veterans may consider working with a veterans benefits planner to simplify the process of receiving benefits, and potentially receive greater benefits than they’d be able to receive by working without a planner. Planners can make disability and pension claims less complicated, prevent obstacles, and speed up the claims process so veterans receive benefits faster.

A knowledgeable veterans benefit advisor can help veterans and their families maximize their eligibility requirements. For example, planners may be aware of exceptions to income limits such as homes, vehicles, and life insurance policies. A planner can be helpful in obtaining military or medical records to support claims as well.

The services offered by veterans benefits planners depends on the type of advisor and their association with the VA. For example, Veterans Service Officers are employed by the VA or veterans groups such as the American Legion and can assist with application preparation, filing, and working on claims. Veterans pension planners are not typically associated with the VA, though some may be accredited. These planners help families plan their finances to receive the maximum benefit amount. Accreditation is important if you want an advisor to officially represent you as you make a claim.

This chart offers more information on the types of veterans benefits planners and what they offer:

veteran benefits planners chart

veterans benefit planners chart

Services offered by veterans benefit planners typically include:

Education: A planner can advise veterans and their families on benefits they may be eligible for. At this stage, planners typically help veterans structure their finances to maximize their benefits.
Application: Planners can help veterans prepare their application and determine which additional forms and supporting documentation are necessary. Gathering the right documentation is key, as omitting important documentation can result in a delay or denial, but sending more documentation than necessary can result in a delay as well. If additional documentation is requested, the planner can help with that as well.
Appeal: If your claim has been denied, an advisor (typically an attorney) can review the reason for the claim denial and determine whether there are grounds for an appeal. They can assist with appeal paperwork and additional supporting evidence, as well as present the case at the hearing.
Veterans benefits planners often assist with claims including:

Aid & Assistance pension
Housebound pension
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Disability Compensation
Burial Benefits
Survivors/Death Pensions
Enrollment in the veterans’ health care program
Admission to a state veterans’ home
The Cost of Veterans Benefits Planners

Veterans benefits planners typically offer their services at no charge, except for attorneys who work to overturn denied claims. Legally, no person or organization can charge a fee for assistance in preparing applications for VA benefits or presenting claims to the VA.

Planners who work for the VA for non-profit organizations are paid a salary and receive no compensation directly from veterans. However, attorneys and other advisors can charge for claims appeal and related services including estate planning.

Typically, attorneys or planners may offer free assistance in preparing applications. If a claim is denied, the attorney or planner will then charge a fee to overturn the appeal. This is typically a percentage of the benefits, or by the hour or project.

To View the Assisted Living Page that continues with a state by state list of veterans homes, please click here and scroll down to the State-Sponsored Veterans Homes Map. It looks like this:

state by state veterans home listings


It breaks down the home available in alphabetical order for each state. Smaller states tend to have only one location, with Maine being a notable exception. States like Florida and California list 6 and 7, respectively.

I’d like to thank the Assisted Living Research Institute for offering to share their valuable veterans content.

A Soldier Suicide Survivor’s Guide to Your Benefits

A Soldier Suicide Survivor’s Guide to Your Benefits

Get Educated, Get Prepared, Get Your Benefits

Living in hurricane and earthquake-prone areas, I know that there things I can do to get my family prepared and through the trouble if it hits. For earthquakes, we always have shoes under our beds in case an earthquake hits. Stepping on broken glass during our escape only makes a bad situation worse. With preparedness in mind, Once a Soldier has put together this overview of the Survivor’s Guide to your Benefits from the Department of Defense. It is current as of July 2015.

First off, here’s the link to the Department of Defense’s guide for you to view and download. It is 37 pages long and is loaded with useful information. Digitally store it in a place that is readily accessible on your desktop or somewhere you can get at it without a log-in or too many clicks. Storing it on the cloud is a great idea. Either way, having it just out of eye shot but a click away will be important when the storm hits.

Second, here are some terms and key elements of the Survivor’s Guide to Your Benefits that appear in the guide which you more than likely are familiar with, but it never hurts to refresh your memory:


Benefits Glossary/Definitions


Casualty Assistance Officer: This is the person to whom you should address your questions, as he or she will be your primary connection to the Department of Defense. The different branches of service have different titles for this person. Find out who currently holds this position and get their contact information. Once you have been notified of your loved one’s death, THEY WILL CALL YOU to arrange a visit. If you don’t get this call within 24 hours, call them.

Months after the death of your loved one, if issues or questions arise, your Casualty Assistance Officer is still your first call.

Casualty assistance officer
Marine Corps
Casualty assistance calls officer
Casualty assistance calls officer
Air Force
Casualty assistance representative
Coast Guard
Casualty assistance calls officer

Death Gratuity: the death gratuity is a lump sum payment made by the Department of Defense to the survivors or other individuals identified by the service member prior to his or her death.

Death Gratuity amount:  The amount of death gratuity is $100,000 and is tax exempt.

Burial benefits -Travel entitlements: The Department of Defense will care for, transport and inter your loved one. The surviving spouse, children and siblings of the service member, as well as the parents of both the service member and surviving spouse are authorized to receive travel entitlements.

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SLGI coverage): Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance is a program of low-cost group life insurance for service members on active duty, ready reservists, members of the National Guard, members of the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Public Health Service, cadets and midshipmen of the four service academies and members of the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

SLGI Coverage Amounts: The maximum amount of SGLI coverage is $400,000. The SGLI coverage is available in increments of $50,000.

Forgiveness of a decedent’s tax liability: Tax liability can be forgiven, or refunded if already paid, if a service member dies under any of the following circumstances:

• While on active duty in a combat zone
• From wounds, disease or other injury received in a combat zone
• From wounds or injury incurred in a terrorist or military action

To go digital with the current status of your benefits, there is an Online Survivor Benefits Report.  This is a DoD self-service logon premium account — or DS logon premium account — that will provide you access to an interactive online survivor benefits report. This report can be accessed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Links are provided in the PDF.

Finally, take notice that there are other benefits covered in the Survivor’s Guide to Your Benefits. Educational benefits like scholarships, financial counseling services, VA home loans and more are included.

Getting ready to the inevitable is part of loving your family and protecting their future. Do it now instead of in the time of crisis when time is short, your mind is cluttered and your emotions are raw.

Once a Soldier provides financial support for the survivors of soldier suicide. 100% of your gift will ease or erase their financial and emotional burden. Please donate and get a free t-shirt or mug as our thank you gift.