Just like getting enough sleep or drinking plenty of water, connecting with others plays an important role in physical and mental health. But it’s sometimes hard to find people who understand your experiences or have had similar experiences.

Getting Veterans and their supporters together regularly – whether for a chat over food, a bowling night or volunteer activity – can build social connections and improve attendees’ mental well-being

VOICES events are designed to foster interpersonal connections and social support among community members, including Veterans of all ages and service branches. Developed with input from Veterans, the Quick Start Guide provides helpful information for anyone interested in starting a community-based social event with Veterans in their area.

VOICES began with weekly meetings between VA peer specialists and a group of Veterans at Bedford VA in Bedford, Massachusetts. They spread to over 25 communities in Massachusetts and other VA facilities and Veterans organizations. They work together to increase not just their own social connection to their community but to also create a sustainable system of social support with other Veterans.

As VOICES events grew in popularity and were replicated in other states, they expanded beyond weekly gatherings, with new social groups forming around other activities, like barbecues, coffee meets, recreation and community service.

At VOICES events, Veterans have discovered helpful information about benefits and services in and around their community. And they’ve chatted with others with similar life experiences. Many have formed bonds and lasting friendships.

What’s in the VOICES Quick Start Guide?

The Quick Start Guide provides a good starting point for creating VOICES events. It tailors them to Veteran’s preferences and needs. Hosts are encouraged to gather input about their wishes and goals for the VOICES events.

All VOICES events bring Veterans together in a public setting. There is no formal agenda or format for the meetings to follow. By remaining informal, VOICES events provide a space where attendees can relax, have fun and get to know one another.

Although VA is here to support these weekly gatherings, members of the community organize and operate the events.

Take the next step

VA wants to make it as easy as possible for anyone interested in starting a VOICES event. If you are a Veteran, part of Veteran-centric organization or a community member interested in starting a group in your area, download the Quick Start Guide and other materials to help you find answers to these common questions:

  • How do I find local Veterans?
  • When and where should I schedule VOICES events?
  • What should I do to prepare for a VOICES event?
  • How should I communicate with group attendees?

More information:

  • If you’re a Veteran looking for support, reach out to the Vet Center Call Center confidentially 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 877-927-8387. Use the VA facility locator tool to find a Vet Center location near you.
  • If you or a Veteran you know is in crisis, contact the Veterans Crisis Line, available 24/7. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at net/Chat.
  • To find resources for service members, Veterans and their family members and caregivers, explore the National Resource Directory.

By Jay A. Gorman and Elizabeth S. Chamberlin are clinical and research psychologists at the VISN 1 MIRECC

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Published on Dec. 31, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.6 min.

Views to date: 735


  1. Howard Pearlman January 6, 2022 at 11:26 pm

    Love the Minneapolis VA; they did an excellent job on my cateract and gave me back useful vision in my left eye, Every time I go there or the Shakapee Clinic I get treated like I just came back from 2 weeks on the front lines, a level of empathy and concern that goes far beyond my civilian health care. Also when they do the blood work for my annual physical I get close to 30 readings, my civilian healthcare gives me maybe 6. I’m 66 years old, former Navy, and all my reading are within specs. Keeping the weight off, working out, and no booze or smoking really appear to help. Only problem I have is that if you want to be seen today, you better go civilian as appts appear to be one to three weeks out. Those guys are great; who knew that a job I finished in 1990 would be so rewarding years later?

  2. Dennis Dowling January 6, 2022 at 9:07 pm

    I filed a VA disability claim in October 2020 for exposure to Agent Orange resulting in prostate and skin cancer. Also filed for hearing loss and tinnitus resulting from my service. The claim was in developing phase for 10 months ( even though they had all the records and information needed ) and has been in the decision phase since August 2021. I have asked numerous times for a C&P hearing, but nothing happens. Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do next.

    [Editor: Not every claim needs a C&P exam, and it isn’t decided by the claimant. That is decided by the rating team. See this link for one potential reason for the decision’s delay: https://news.va.gov/93906/understanding-vas-current-claims-backlog-environment-future-growth/ ]

  3. Ken January 5, 2022 at 9:48 pm

    I went to 3 VA clinics trying to get my blood pressure medicine refilled. Neither of these clinics would help or make an appointment! Shame on this organization that we gave our lives for!

  4. Ken January 5, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    So tired of not being able to get simple treatments because they’re not excepting new patients.
    Giving up the VA for good and going private that my Medicare will cover…TheVA definitely needs to get their act together!

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