Thursday, April 17, 2008

Veterans need to turn to City Halls and Town Halls

“When a veteran is sitting down there at the veteran’s office,” said Parker, “and they tell him they’re going to keep his gas from being shut off, he wants to hug Scott [Gray], not come up here to see Jerry or Steve [Siegel] or Greg [Kenning]. Do you know how many veterans I [sign] utility payments for? Zero. And that’s how it should be. We see [paperwork] after the fact. He (the veteran) never sees us — he’ll say, ‘Thank you, VA officer!’”

Former county VA director: More hours for veteran services needed

By MARK NEWMAN, Courier staff writer —
OTTUMWA — An Army veteran and outgoing Wapello County Veterans Affairs director says he is frustrated his advice is not being followed by the Wapello County Board of Supervisors; the supervisors say they have the veterans’ best interests in mind.

Outgoing Director Scott Gray insists Wapello County veterans — and the county itself — would be better served by having a full-time VA office.

Newly appointed Wapello County VA Commissioner Mark Smoot said what he is learning supports Gray’s idea of the benefit of having a VA administrator working more hours.

“I’m at a training session for new veterans officers now,” he told the Courier during a recent interview. “They told us a veteran who files a claim by themselves will probably receive some pension. But if they go through a trained VA officer, they stand on average to gain $6,000 more.”

“We can do so much more,” said Gray. “Veterans are worth it, and we can certainly show the need. These are all people who need help, and we don’t have time to get to [them all].”
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How many people have actually been to their Town Hall or City Hall to see someone to help them? Not often. Most don't even know where their local government office is. There are VA representatives in just about every town across America. They are there and should be used to help their citizens. After all, that's what you pay taxes for.

When my husband's claim was tied up and he was an inpatient back home in Massachusetts, I had to turn to the VA office in our city looking for help. We were broke and all the bills were late. My husband would be out of work for a month and I asked them for help to get us through that month without his income. They helped us get by. It wasn't a lot of money but it was enough to pay a couple of bills to keep the heat on and the electricity on. It was a little less load off of me.

Many think the problems with veterans claims are new, but they only think that because the media reports were non-existent during the 80's and 90's but I can assure you they were suffering just as much back then if not more than they are now. I get a lot of veterans asking for ideas of where they can turn for help as the VA turns down claims. One of the places they are sent to is their local government. They never think of it on their own. It's really a shame. The help is there but they won't get it from them unless they ask for it. I would have suffered the month my husband was in the hospital needlessly if I had not asked them for help. Up until then I was just asking my family for help. Pride almost got in the way.

Our veterans are proud people and feel that they should not be turning to the government for help but they are forced to do it because the national government is not doing what they need to do. Wapello is an example of veterans not turning to them for help. That office should be filled with veterans needing help. Every office around the nation should be because the need is so great. If you know a veteran in trouble and need of emergency assistance, send them to your own local government. That's what you pay taxes for too!

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