For Veterans Day 2023, let’s take a moment to remember those U.S. Veterans who still fight battles in their post-military lives:
- There are over 67,000 homeless Veterans in the U.S.—and Veterans are twice as likely as non-Veterans to be homeless.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that nearly 1 in 4 of their Veteran healthcare patients have PTSD.
- Over 5 million Veterans have some form of mental illness and/or substance use disorder.
This post is dedicated to all Veterans, but especially to the struggling and those who serve them.
BridgingApps and Easter Seals Greater Houston are in ongoing partnership with recenter Houston, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people reclaim their lives from substance abuse and homelessness. Many recenter clients are U.S. Veterans; and among other tech-coaching services, our BridgingApps team members help Veterans figure out VA-furnished devices.
One thing we make a point of not overlooking: how to use devices for personal recreation and entertainment. While game-playing and video streaming may seem mere luxuries, they are often essentials for people with limited resources and hard lives. Physical and mental health are well served by taking breaks from problem-solving, in favor of relaxation and plain old fun.
Where’s the Video?
Of course, “relaxing and having fun” depends on easy access—not always so easy when digital literacy and/or budget are limited. Besides which, digital services can change on short notice. Case in point: much to the annoyance of video viewers, several streaming services have increased prices recently. The good news is, there are still free streaming apps available. The not-so-good news, at least for users who hate extra steps: those apps do have to be found and downloaded.
For Veterans with VA-provided digital tablets, there’s an extra hurdle. “The VA-provided tablets used by recenter Veterans are ‘locked down,’” says Alejandra “Ale” Gonzalez, BridgingApps Digital Navigator and tech coach. “That means they are unable to download any apps besides the VA-approved ones in their own app catalogs.” (A common feature, actually, on devices that organizations offer clients or students.)
Fortunately, most features found on apps are also on the providers’ websites. To use an online streaming service, it’s simple to turn its address link into an app-like button for a tablet’s home screen.
These “website shortcuts are a great way for Veterans to keep track of frequently visited sites,” says Ale. To create the shortcut, the user just has to:
- Open the web browser
- Go to the site they want
- Click on the Share button (it looks like a square or sheet of paper with an upward-pointing arrow, and is usually easy to spot under the URL window)
- Scroll down the menu and find the Add to Home Screen command
- Click Add to Home Screen
- If desired, enter a new name for the shortcut button
- Click the Add command
Voila: quick one-step access to the streaming website, ready for use as needed.
YouTube is still the big name in video sites, with hundreds of millions of free options. For viewers who prefer more strictly-TV-oriented sites, “we share three free streaming services with our recenter clients,” says Ale: “Pluto TV, Crackle, and Tubi TV. They all have live streaming, on-demand shows, and movies that are completely free to watch. And an account is not necessary. However, these sites do have ads throughout most movies and shows: that’s how they keep services free.”