There are millions of mobile apps that we rely on to help pass the time, stay organized and keep track of our lives. However, apps designed solely for veterans and their families are a bit harder to find in the sea of options.
"There's a whole world of apps out there that the veteran community could really use," said Alex Hollings, editor in chief at Sandboxx, a military letter-writing and news app. "It's just a matter of taking these things that we've already developed in the commercial sector and adjusting the delivery to make it enticing to guys like me when I first got out."
When he medically retired from the military in 2012, Hollings dismissed mental health apps that involved meditating or positive affirmations because those ideas seemed weak. Later, a therapist pushed him to use an app called Insight Timer, and he realized that using such technologies can deliver positive results.
"I had to have it shoved down my throat by a therapist. It's effectively a meditation app for people who don't meditate or maybe aren't comfortable with the premise," he said. "But what's great about the Insight Timer versus a lot of the other mental health apps out there is that it's actually free."
In addition to Insight Timer, Hollings recommends additional apps that the military community can take advantage of to better manage their health, connect with others and even track appointments at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This list includes a few apps from the VA’s App Store , which offers dozens of other programs available for download. Those apps are indicated with an asterisk. Other apps can be found at the app store on your device. Also, check out AARP's broader list of 50 free apps that appeal to older adults.
AIMS for Anger Management: Based on the Anger and Irritability Management Skills self-help course, this app provides education about anger, opportunities to find support and ways to manage angry reactions.
Annie App: Receive automated text messages to remind you when to take medications, log your blood pressure or keep up with other health routines that you've discussed with your doctor.
ANC Explore: Locate and view images of grave sites and other points of interest throughout Arlington National Cemetery. For those visiting in person, the app also provides step-by-step instructions on how to get to specific locations throughout the cemetery’s grounds.
Deal Patrol Military Discounts: Created by two veterans, this app aggregates military discounts based on users’ locations. However, it is available only from the Google Play store.
Insight Timer: Access a free library of meditations, sleep programs, and yoga classes. Topics are divided into more than 200 sections, including benefits, talks, types of reflection and duration.
Insomnia Coach: Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), Insomnia Coach helps you follow a weekly training plan to track and improve your sleep. The app provides tips for sleeping, personal feedback about your sleep, and 17 tools to get your sleep back on track.
LinkedIn: While Rallypoint may be helpful to connect with other veterans, LinkedIn is another resource to help find employment and grow your career. Consider joining one of its many veterans group to stay engaged with the military community.
MOVE! Coach: This 16-week program guides veterans, service members and their families to achieve success in losing and managing weight through education and tools. Participants can receive progress reports about their weight, diet and exercise goals.
Objective Zero: Service members and veterans dealing with mental health issues can connect anonymously to a support network of volunteers over voice, video or text messaging. The app also can help users find mental health, wellness and veteran-related resources.
PTSD Coach: Find education on PTSD and information about professional care, take a self-assessment test and learn new ways to find support. Tools range from relaxation skills and positive self-talk to other self-help strategies.
Rallypoint: Join the social network made by and for service members and veterans. In addition to staying connected, there are also opportunities for peer mentorship, obtaining employment, and ways to meet other veterans based on shared interests.
Sandboxx: Developed by veterans, Sandboxx has changed the way letters are written to recruits. With over 6 million letters sent to date, messages are first drafted online, then Sandboxx physically prints your mail (including return stationary) and sends it overnight to soldiers at any recruiting base. It also provides news and content for veterans of all eras.
VA Online Scheduling: Offers a secure way to request, schedule and track appointments at VA and community care facilities. The app accesses your VA Electronic Health Record and allows you to view details about upcoming appointments.
VetsApp: This app streamlines access to VA benefits, services and websites. Veterans can manage their appointments, download their records, refill prescriptions and message their health providers. Users may also apply for the GI Bill and VA Home Loans, explore jobs and access discounts. (Note: The platform is not affiliated with the VA.)
VetCalc: Created by a former VA disability rating specialist, this app can help you learn how the VA determines disability percentages and estimate your monthly disability benefit payment. This app is available only for iPhone users.
VetChange: This free self-management program is for service members concerned about their drinking by helping them build skills to better manage their alcohol consumption, PTSD symptoms and triggering emotions.
Veteran Connection: Gain access to veteran resources in your state in education, employment, housing, and rehabilitation programs. Available only on iPhone.
Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He also serves as a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency’s Washington bureau and worked in news gathering for USA Today and Al Jazeera English.