Hero Miles: Reuniting Families of Injured Warriors
When a U.S. service member is injured or ill, he or she may need to receive treatment at a VA facility far from home, making for a long, lonely recovery process. Traveling to their treatment location can be an expensive undertaking, not to mention paying for loved ones to travel there to be at their side. Thankfully, there is a program to help these service members and their families, and an easy way for frequent flyers to offer their support to military families.
The Hero Miles program provides round-trip airline tickets to wounded, injured, and ill service members – and/or their families or close friends – who are undergoing treatment at a military or VA medical center. Flights are made possible through frequent flyer mile donations made by individual airline passengers of participating airlines, or from donations by citizens. To date, more than 63,000 tickets have been given to to wounded, injured, and ill service members and their families, worth nearly $100 million. Many recovering service members site having their family members and friends there with them as the main reason they fought hard to recover and never give up.
For eligibility requirements, the service member must be an active duty member of the military, including National Guard and reservists, receiving treatment at an authorized medical treatment facility. The service member can submit a request through a case worker, social work staff, or service casualty offices. At some medical centers, there are established offices to assist families, such as the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, the Warrior Transition Unit, the Warrior Family Assistance Center at SAMMC, or Marine Liaisons at Naval medical centers.
The program is administered by the Fisher House Foundation, a 501(c) (3) public charity that builds and donates fully furnished houses – located on the grounds of major medical centers – to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Department of Veterans Affairs. These homes provide a comfortable, free home-away-from home for military families who are visiting their service member undergoing treatment. Since its opening in 1990, the Fisher Houses have helped more than 307,000 families and saved families more than $200 million in lodging and transportation costs.
Generally the Fisher House Foundation does not place limits on the number or frequency of the travel, as long as it is reasonable and in the best interest of the wounded, injured, or ill service member. Additionally, the tickets are not unlimited and many service members should benefit from the program, but Hero Miles does its best to support all requests. Service members or family members are required to pay any additional fees above the price of the ticket, such as unauthorized change fees, seat upgrades, baggage fees, and unaccompanied minor fees.
Hero Miles receives the donated miles directly from the participating airline, and each has its own way of allowing its customers to make donations. Unfortunately, the IRS does not currently allow these donations to be used as tax deductions. However, monetary donations made to Hero Miles are tax deductible and 100% of the funds is used to purchase tickets. For more information, contact the Fisher House Foundation toll-free at 888-294-8560.
Written by Megan Hammons