I learned a lot of new things today by visiting our local Veteran's Administration Service Center. This all started a few months ago. You may have remembered I ranted about a guy who died and left his wife penniless. She had no job, no job skills, no insurance, no income, and a whole pile of bills. Today after sifting through armloads of paperwork, the widow was able to apply for a monthly stipend for poor widows of persons who served during a war. The guy had only served a few years during Vietnam before getting out of the military, but because he did this, his wife is still entitled to a number of benefits even though he wasn't retired from the military.
I had always thought that you needed to be retired after 20+ years or medically retired with a service connected disability in order to receive any type of compensation from the VA. Turns out this isn't true. The particular VA service center we went to today had a long list of programs available, many of which are offered to people who have served any amount of time in the military. These things include: a one time death payment (to help pay for burial or cremation), help paying electric/gas/water bills, rental assistance, medical care, substance abuse treatment, a homeless shelter, transitional housing, employment services, incarcerated vets program, financial hardship grants, educational assistance, emergency transportation help, emergency child care help, down payment assistance, medical care, et al.
If you have previously served in the military for any amount of time at all and you are suffering any kind of hardship, make one of your first stops at the VA Service Center in your nearest city and see what they have to offer.