Editor's Note: Veterans, take note: In this article, Rising Fawn resident Evan Bellville offers help accessing your rightful benefits and announces an informational session on Sept. 7.
Veterans, you earned benefits.
When you took that step forward, raised your right hand and took the oath to defend our country, a contract was completed assuring you benefits for that service. Those benefits await you and are set aside for you by the government you served. Not accepting them does not mean they will be applied to another veteran who may need them more than you do. The budget for yours was set aside when you enlisted. Gaining them is getting easier but you have to know how to navigate the system that delivers them.
You may have had well-intentioned information given to you on what you need to do to gain them by fellow veterans, friends, family or even government or Veterans Administration employees. Regardless of the source, some of that information is incomplete or even erroneous. It isn't their intention to mislead you or deny you benefits. Truth is, it can be confusing and secondhand information is often incorrect.
If you have been frustrated and disillusioned and feel like abandoning efforts to gain those benefits; don't! Access is getting better every day and you, your family and loved ones can have what you deserve.
An old saying illustrates why things are confusing to all of us; “We don't know what we don't know.” Without having been exposed to information previously in some manner, the existence of that information cannot be realized or appreciated. The good news is, there are resources available to you who know the path, the rewards and the methods to get you there. And they want to assist you so much that they have made it their mission to help you. Meeting them and being introduced to your future is just around the corner.
If you are an Alabama or Georgia resident, chances are that when you contacted the VA in the past, you may have been told that you must go to Birmingham or Atlanta VA facilities. That is incorrect. Your proximity to Chattanooga allows you to be served there. Chattanooga has an excellent VA Clinic. New policies and programs are being introduced by the Veterans Administration in a constant effort to make them more available to you. Most recently, an improved access measure has been rolled out that will enable veterans more than 40 miles away, or outside a reasonable drive time, to utilize local medical services.
Military ID cards are accepted by many retailers to get discounts for products or services honoring your service. Lowe's, cellphone service, restaurants, auto purchases, banking services, clothing and shoes, even travel discounts are available. Do you have a Military ID card? Do you know how to get yours?
Perhaps your civilian career isn't what you hoped for. Did you know that your military service benefits can help you get a government job, or get you retrained for another career or even help you with job placement? The nationally recognized and excellent South East Lineman Center here in Trenton has a good many former military personnel training in each class. Many use their VA educational benefits to be trained there for terrific high-paying career opportunities. Educational benefits are not just for colleges. They extend to trade schools, truck driving schools and even apprenticeship programs.
A veterans town hall meeting is being scheduled for Sept. 7 in Trenton. Representatives from the Veteran's Administration, the Chattanooga Vet Center, specific departments of the VA Clinic andvVeteran service organizations including the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and other key resources will be there to lead your efforts. The American Legion will host the event at the Legion Hall that Saturday at 10 a.m. till noon. All veterans and their adult family members are invited. This is not a social event for veteran families and their kids and it is not appropriate to bring youngsters. This effort is dedicated to assisting veterans reach their benefits.
Older generations of veterans retain their rights to the benefits they have earned. Many have accessed them over the years whether it be medically related, housing, educational, burial, survivor or family related. As your oath of service has no expiration date, neither do the majority of benefits. The goal of this meeting is to include all veterans, combat or peacetime, foreign or domestic, into the veterans' support network.
North Georgia and north Alabama have many veterans who served from World War II and even last week whohaven't registered for their benefits. Don't leave your benefits behind.