The American Legion brought a Veterans Crisis Center to West Virginia on Tuesday and Wednesday in an attempt to help veterans affected by delays at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.
The centers have been organized across the country, connecting veterans and their families with members of the Legion's national staff, local members, staff from VA facilities and volunteers from other organizations to help guide them through the process.
"It allows the opportunity for the veteran to meet directly with VA employees, to meet directly with American Legion and credit representatives to either file disability claims, find out what's going on with their disability claims or get them enrolled in VA healthcare and making sure that veterans are receiving the proper benefits that they've earned," Zack Hearn, Deputy Director of Claims with the American Legion said.
At the Veterans Crisis Center in Shinnston, an estimated 135 veterans and family members came through during the two days.
One thing which has pleased the American Legion is the success stories arising in the centers regarding successful benefit claims. The center in West Virginia was no different. On the first day, one veteran was able to receive $9,000 in benefits, while another veteran was able to received $8,000 in benefits.
"So just [Tuesday], there was $17,000 awarded on the spot and that's money that gets in the veteran's pocket," Hearn said. "I'm sure it helps alleviate some of their financial hardship and stress that they may have endured over the last several years as these claims have been waiting in the process."
Many of the veterans which came through the doors of Post 31 seeking help were part of an older demographic, which Hearn said makes getting them the care they need all the more important.
"At that age, the last thing they need to be worrying about is where to get their healthcare," he said. "To make sure that they are able to get their healthcare and that they can live their senior citizen years, their golden years, with relative ease and understanding about their healthcare is very rewarding."
According to Hearn, before the final center is held in Washington D.C., the American Legion has three more locations tentatively scheduled to visit. The hope, as it was in West Virginia, is for the groundwork to be laid so a need for theses centers never arises again in these locations.
"A lot of this business comes down to communications," Hearn said. "Having the veterans understand what's going on. Have them understand the bureaucracy and the red tape that it takes to ensure that you're properly treated within the system and making sure they get there, because too often they fall through the cracks."