Start Here to Find San Diego Veterans Resources
Known as the “birthplace of California,” San Diego is the state’s second largest city, with enjoyable year-round weather, extensive beaches, and a natural deep-water harbor. For much of its history, the city has been a hub for U.S. military activity, with bases for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. During WWII, the city’s population quickly doubled as a result of the proliferation of military installations and defense manufacturers. In fact, San Diego was so important that it was reportedly at the top of Japan’s list of U.S. targets in the failed Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night biological attack. Today, the U.S. Navy is still the city’s largest employer.
It’s perhaps not surprising that there are a large number of veterans living in San Diego and the surrounding area and many San Diego veterans resources available to them. In San Diego County, there are more than 230,000 vets whose service has earned them numerous benefits from programs administered at the local, state, and national level. It can be daunting at times knowing how to access these benefits, but by connecting with a few key organizations, veterans and their families can really make a difference in their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
A key concern for veterans and their families is accessing quality health care. The VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS) – located at 3350 La Jolla Village Dr. – provides advanced technologies and a commitment to compassionate service to more than 235,104 Veterans in the San Diego and Imperial Valley counties. The VASDHS offers medical, surgical, mental health, geriatric, spinal cord injury, and advanced rehabilitation services. It also supports three Vet Centers at Chula Vista, San Diego, and San Marcos, and the 40-bed Aspire Center that serves as a treatment facility and temporary housing option for veterans who need rehabilitation services.
Unique to San Diego is the Veteran’s Village of San Diego (VVSD), the only program of its kind in the nation. In 1981, five Vietnam veterans were struggling with the traumas of war, and were desperate to shine a spotlight on their experience with a lack of medical and psychological care for Vietnam veterans. They established the VVSD and over the past three decades have become a leader is assisting homeless veterans, especially those with substance abuse and/or mental health issues. At the heart of VVSD's programs are its five pillars of success: Prevention, Intervention, Rehabilitation, Aftercare, and Employment services. Each year VVSD provides services to more than 2,000 military veterans, including men and women who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The City of San Diego maintains an extensive online resource database helpful to veterans, covering topics such as education, employment, housing, and general benefits. The site includes a list of all local and national veteran hotlines – including the veteran’s crisis hotline ((800) 273-TALK (8255)) and the VA caregiver support line ((855) 260-3274) – and links to numerous San Diego organizations that offer specialized services to veterans and their families. Veterans are eligible for a wide range of resources to help with housing –
from home loans to funds to make homes accessible – and the City’s site offers links to many resources help with this process as well.
San Diego is home to nine Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts in a 10-mile radius of the city. Although known for networking and social activities, the VFW also trains service officers to help veterans and survivors with the application and benefits process through the VA. For no charge to veterans, spouses, and families, the service officers can act as advocates, including helping to file, research, and, if necessary, appeal a claim. VFW posts are a great place to meet other veterans and often host monthly social activities for veterans and their families.
Written by Megan Hammons