Volunteer program helps socially isolated veterans amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

The Department of Veterans Affairs is commending the Compassionate Contact Corps (CCC) for a job well done and keeping America’s isolated veterans company during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The program was implemented at the onset of the pandemic by the VA Voluntary Service (VAVS). It is a tele-support program that matches veterans with trained volunteers who make weekly phone calls that last no less than 15 minutes. 

The phone calls help veterans who are isolated and potentially feeling lonely to have some social interaction, even if it’s just through a telephone call. 

The CCC expanded rapidly due to the ongoing pandemic and there became an increased need for social interactions for veterans, according to a VA blog post. 

"We were concerned about the isolation right away. We realized that a lot of our veterans, a lot of people, don't like to even admit that they are lonely, and so, until they do that, it's kind of hard for us to help the way we want to, but, we know that there's research that shows that chronic loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day," Prince Taylor, deputy director for the VA Center for Development and Civic Engagement, told FOX 13 Tampa. 

So far, there are about 750 volunteers participating in the program across the country and they’ve been matched with over 1,500 veterans, Taylor continued. 

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FILE - An elderly lady takes a phone call in her home.

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Feedback from veterans who have received assistance from the CCC in 2021 said it made them feel less lonely, with some saying it even saved their lives. 

"This is why I love the program so much because a lot of our veterans have reached out and said that it saved their lives. That this is the only time they really get any kind of social interaction. We did a survey last year and 90 percent of the veterans said that it made them feel less lonely and 70 percent said it made their overall well-being increase," Taylor said. 

"The volunteers seem to get as much out of it as the veterans themselves, and some of the veterans even say, you know, I'd like to become a volunteer and help other vets now," Taylor continued. 

For any volunteers wishing to participate in CCC, all they have to do is contact their local VA office and for anyone who wishes to volunteer, visit www.volunteer.VA.gov. 

FOX 13 Tampa contributed to this report.