Help veterans with VA needs

In reaction to the scandal that surfaced within the Department of Veterans Affairs last spring, The American Legion began hosting Veterans Crisis Command Centers (VCCCs) in June, helping veterans enroll in the VA health-care system, file benefits claims and check on the status of pending claims. Over the course of four months, the Legion held VCCCs in 11 cities and towns, helped more than 3,000 veterans and their families, and secured nearly $900,000 in retroactive VA benefits compensation.

On Sept. 30, the Legion transitioned from "crisis" to "outreach" and hosted its first, of many, Veterans Benefits Centers in Washington, D.C., assisting 378 veterans with VA benefits. After noticing the success the VCCCs were having, several American Legion departments and posts saw the benefit of hosting their own VCCCs by pulling together resources from the VA and other community providers to help local veterans with their health-care needs.

Post 71 in Lake Wales, Fla., hosted a veterans town hall meeting in July where local VA staff provided information on benefits claims, burial in a national cemetery, homeless outreach efforts and grants, and vet ready centers to the more than 50 veterans in attendance. Also in July, the Department of Arizona conducted its first of three Veterans Crisis Command Centers. The department held VCCCs at posts in Mesa, Tucson and Peoria, assisting more than 100 veterans.

The Department of North Carolina hosted a Veterans Benefits Action Center Oct. 21-23 at Post 116 in Fuquay-Varina where Legion service officers and VA representatives assisted veterans with benefits claims and VA health-care enrollment. The department publicized the event through print and radio annoucements and by collaborating with the Disabled American Veterans, The American Red Cross, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Wake and Durham County Veteran’s Services, and the local VA.

In effort to ensure every VA-eligible veteran receives their benefits owed to them, I encourage departments, districts and posts to conduct their own veterans benefits center. Partner with local representatives from the local VA and from other veterans service organizations and promote your efforts in the media. Remember, face-to-face advocacy can produce real results for veterans and their families.