Information session for veterans designed to open avenues

Jan. 09, 2014 @ 09:47 PM

Veterans of military service have many benefits available to them. But it’s sometimes hard to know just what those benefits are and how to find them.

“It’s surprising how many veterans don’t know what benefits exist,” said Phyllis Maynard, the local service officer for Disabled American Veterans.

In addition, service providers may not know what benefits are available to veterans and their survivors.

To help close the information gap, Maynard led an effort to organize a meeting of veterans organizations and service providers for a two-way conversation about services available for veterans.

Meeting at Kerr Lake Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Wednesday, representatives of veterans organizations described their services, and service providers described what they need to know in order to do a better job of serving veterans and their survivors.

Maynard showed a video on post-traumatic stress disorder and a Power Point presentation on survivors’ benefits. She invited representatives of veterans organizations to describe their services.

Ivey Chavis, a social worker with the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, told how the center assists elderly veterans.

“Our goal is to help them stay at home as long as they can,” he said, “and when they can’t anymore, we have a place for them.”

The medical center’s programs include nursing home placements and respite services for caregivers.

The N.C. Department of Commerce has several programs targeting veterans.

“We reach out to employers to advocate for veterans in finding employment,” said Houston Campbell.

Kenneth Kempf described the department’s disabled veterans outreach program, which provides assistance for handicapped veterans.

“DAV can assist veterans to get their claims started,” said Kenneth Kempf, national service officer with Disabled American Veterans. “We serve as your attorney at no cost to you.”

“We don’t provide direct services,” said Sheila Brown, aging projects coordinator with Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments. “We work with service providers.”

She pointed out that veterans don’t always identify themselves as veterans.

Robin Wheatley, consumer affairs coordinator for Cardinal Innovations Health Care Solutions, responded that the term veteran may cause confusion.

“We don’t use the word ‘veteran,’” she said. “They sometimes assume that means a war veteran. We ask, ‘Have you ever served in the military?’”

Sandra Hardy, claims representative with the Social Security Administration, said, “We do screen for military service. Our sole purpose is to make sure the person before us is getting everything they have coming to them.”

“North Carolina has the highest euthanasia rate in the United States,” said Ronnie Sadoski, who formed Wags4Tags, a nonprofit to provide companion dogs for veterans.

The organization’s purpose is to save as many dogs as possible and give them to veterans suffering from psychological and emotional injuries. He described his own experience, in which he credited his companion dog with saving his life when he was deeply depressed.

“So many of us are getting older and we depend on our children and grandchildren to get our records,” said Frank Madigan, a local resident and a veteran of the Korean conflict. “What if we have no records?”

Kenner said records can be retrieved from the VA’s archives.

“We need to encourage veterans to get their information on file with their local veterans service officers,” he suggested. Chavis said a record of military service can be part of a living will.

Maynard added, “We need to encourage spouses to go to the VA hospital to get medical records.”

Survivors of deceased veterans also may be eligible for services, including educational, vocational and financial counseling; civil service preference; and commissary privileges. But they may need assistance in obtaining these services.

Ed Blue, a veteran of the Korean conflict and Vietnam war and a former Vance County veterans service officer, praised the VA medical center but complained that “the Department of Veterans Affairs is the red-headed step-child of the federal government.” He said there have been arbitrary reductions in the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation plan for surviving spouses and children that deprive them of some of the benefits.

 

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.

 

 

VETERANS’ BENEFITS

 

Information about veterans’ benefits may be obtained from the following:

 

• Gary Blue, Vance County veterans employment representative, N.C. Dept. of Commerce, (252) 438-6129.

• Houston Campbell, veterans employment consultant, N.C. Dept. of Commerce, (919) 212-3849, ext. 209.

• Ivey Chavis, social worker, Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, (919) 286-0411, ext. 6178.

• Kenneth Kempf, Disabled Veterans Outreach Program, N.C. Dept. of Commerce, (919) 212-3849, ext. 208.

• Leroy Kenner, national service officer, Disabled American Veterans, (336) 631-5481.

• Phyllis Maynard, local service officer, Disabled American Veterans, (252) 432-9376.

• Alohalani Pickett, homeless case manager, Veterans Affairs Regional Office, (336) 631-5481.