Are veterans using the Department of Veterans Assistance?

Sep 12, 2013

Cabinet Secretary Rick Thompson held the 2nd of 5 meetings around the state yesterday to hear concerns from veterans about things like access to healthcare, and nursing homes. 

James McCormick is a 22-year veteran of the Iraq and Desert Storm Wars in the Army. He says there are many things vets in the state need.

“Well obviously access to healthcare is an important thing, the need for better understanding of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries and also we need to think about long-term care facilities for some of our aging veterans,” McCormick said.

McCormick said although the state is taking a focus on things like PTSD, the state is still trying to catch up.

“It’s an issue we need to address and we need to be addressing it at the state level and what can we do, what are the resources that we have in the state to address these things and we have some wonderful programs that are out there,” McCormick said.

West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance Secretary Rick Thompson said the need for another veterans nursing home located in the southern part of the state is being looked into in Beckley or at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Huntington.

Thompson said his purpose is two-fold.

“Let more people know about the services that the WV Department of Veterans Assistance offers veterans, there are a lot of services that we have that people are unaware of, people don’t know we have a nursing home in Clarksburg, a veterans home in Barboursville and a cemetery in Institute. And at the same time come outside our department places and let veterans come in and feel free to come in and discuss issues,” Thompson said.

Veteran’s like Woody Williams, a retired World War II vet and Medal of Honor recipient listened at the American Legion Post 177 in Barboursville near Huntington. Williams said the importance of the meeting cannot be underestimated.

“It really is long overdue, there has always been a confusion between the state veterans department and the department of veteran’s affairs nationally, and it’s a confused thing,” Williams said.

"It really is long overdue, there has always been a confusion between the state veterans department and the department of veteran’s affairs nationally, and it’s a confused thing.," Williams said.

And Williams said that confusion causes some veterans to miss out on help they could be receiving for a number of problems.

“The department of veteran’s assistance has 14 of these offices and they handle things like unemployment and transportation. They do a service directly to the veteran that the federal government can’t do in these communities,” Williams said.

West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance also helps with things like mental health services, housing, substance abuse counseling, financial assistance and education. Williams said the key is to get those that gathered at the American Legion post to take the information to other veterans throughout the community.

According to Thompson and the Department of Veterans Assistance there are programs throughout the state that are not being utilized such as outreach programs through the Department of Health and Human Resources, Work Force West Virginia programs and educational assistance through organizations like the Higher Education Policy Commission. Thompson said only 40% of veterans are using educational assistance.

Thompson said they’ll take the information learned Thursday combined with Wednesday’s meeting in Beckley and the three other meetings still to come and figure out what they can do.

“We’ll accumulate everything we learn and put it together and see what changes we can make or how else we can get information out. We’re going to learn from this and categorize and if there is particular problems that we can address or help the veteran address, we’ll try to address those problems,” Thompson said.

The next meeting will take place Wednesday September 18th at the Clarksburg VFW post 573 at 5 p.m.