3-day push will help NC veterans connect with benefits

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – A three-day event for veterans launched Thursday to help former military members access benefits, among other services.

But many veterans told CBS North Carolina’s Beairshelle Edmé they’re frustrated with all these processes, applications, and long waits.

Sixty-one years could separate some of the veterans who have served in the Korean War from those who were sent to the Iraq War. But as they formed a perimeter around the Cary Herbert Young Community Center, their mission was the same: access to veteran benefits.

“You start out at the VA. They put you in the system, then you meet with the veteran services officer to fill out the paperwork,” explained Larry Kall, a Army veteran of Vietnam. “They say it’s six to nine months to a year before you hear anything. I’m hoping this will escalate it.”

The Veterans Experience Action Center, VEAC, brings in former military member from across the nation.

It’s the third year for the event where agents help fill out applications for benefit claims and direct veterans to health services, including for mental illness.

Derwood Bobbitt is a Marine veteran, who like others, has doubts about the process.

“Yes, I volunteered to serve my country; however, I was perfectly fine then,” Bobbitt said. “Now, all of a sudden I have an injury or mental illness or whatever the case may be. You know, ‘Hey let’s fix this problem. Instead of putting a Band-Aid on something that needs surgery, hey, let’s do surgery.”

The Department of Veteran Affairs, along with several other veteran organizations, sponsor the event.

Asked how to make veterans feel less frustrated and more valued, Megan Miller, an assistant veterans services manager at the Winston-Salem VBA answered: “Part of the way we’re trying to make it better is by being here face-to-face, because I think a lot of the frustration results from confusion. Veterans don’t understand the process to file a claim or they don’t understand why their claim may not be entitled to service connection for example.”

VA officials say regional and congressional offices as well as online resources are all available.

They hope the three-day event starts or continues the process to honoring their service.

The VEAC hours are Sept. 14-15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sept. 16 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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