Veteran Outreach – Bill H.R. 153
For what reason might we feel compelled to take care of our veterans? Our veterans have served the country; have given of themselves, to assure us the very freedoms we currently hold dear. Veterans have fought and shed blood for the very way of life we all lead today. It is only right that we ensure their care once they are off active duty, as they took care of us when we simply assumed we were safe and free.
When it comes to veteran benefits over half of veterans are unaware or do not fully understand their deserved benefits. For our Korean War, World War II, and Vietnam War era veterans 55 percent are unaware of, or do not fully understand their benefits. The percentage drops slightly to 40 percent for our younger generation of veterans. These high percentages are unacceptable as each veteran deserves to fully understand and receive their benefits.
North Carolina Representative Mike McIntyre is sponsoring the H.R. 153 bill; the Veteran Outreach Improvement Act. This bill would provide grants to State and County veteran agencies in order to start up finance and/or improve all programs involving outreach to veterans. A high percentage of veterans are not aware of their benefits as a veteran. A significant group of such veterans are those who are homeless. Thirteen percent of homeless people nationwide are veterans. I believe that these veterans desperately need more outreach and resource services.
In the Denver area there are a number of organizations that provide services to homeless veterans, including the Denver Rescue Mission, Volunteers of America, Urban Denver Ministries, and Colorado Coalition for Homelessness. One resource directed connected with the VA is the CRRC (Community Resource Referral Center). The VAÕs CRRC is a resource center that assists homeless veterans in many different facets such as employment services, housing assistance, case management, Veteran Affairs and community organization benefits.
As it turns out, every county in the United States has a person assigned as a county veteran service officer. Veteran service officers assist in outreach to our veterans in rural as well as urban areas. The veteran officers are employed by their state and are trained to understand and know the Veteran Affairs System. They help veterans understand their wide range of benefits, from medical care, military records, grave markers and even home loans.
I spoke to several county veteran service officers who would love to conduct additional outreach services. Funding insufficiencies in certain counties limits their ability to perform outreach to rural veterans. H.R. 153 is asking for $25,000,000 to provide grant assistance to these counties in order to improve the outreach in their communities to our veterans.
Supporting the passing of H.R. 153 would ultimately aid these county veteran service officers in their efforts to reach veterans in rural areas, as well as in Denver, with outreach programs they desperately need.
If you are a veteran, or a family member of a veteran, you can contact your respective county veteran service office for assistance in understanding any of the available programs. You can find the phone, email and address for each of the offices online through the veteran affairs websites at http://nacvso.org/. Please help support this bill through contacting your congressional representatives.
Written by Celeste Grabowski, University of Southern Colorado graduate student