Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 25, 2014

VA official answers benefit questions at GlenWood Park

GLENWOOD — Veterans who served their country during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and other conflicts had questions Thursday for a representative of an agency that impacts all their lives, the Veterans Administration.

Antoinette Johnson of the VA Regional Office in Huntington visited the GlenWood Park Retirement Village to speak with visiting veterans about the difficulties they face when seeking benefits and other federal assistance.

“I am here to offer an outreach to the veterans and answer any questions they have on the DVA (Department of Veterans Affairs) side of things, service-connected and non-service connected benefits for veterans and their survivors,” Johnson said. “They are entitled to these benefits, and we don’t know they served our country until they apply for these benefits.”  

Veterans who attended the meeting spoke of problems they had getting benefits in what they considered a timely manner. Johnson said the VA’s personnel have to deal with a large workload that slows down how quickly they can address a claim.

“It seems like more frustration on the health care side of things, the benefits side of things. The frustration is the timing of the competition of things,” she added later.

“We do apologize for that and appreciate their patience and their understanding.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a website, va.gov, that offers assistance such as an EZ form to help veterans apply for benefits, Johnson said.

Veterans can also find information about benefits by calling 800-827-1000.

Korean War veteran James Harvey, 80, of Bluefield, said he recently enrolled in the VA benefits program and has scheduled a check up at the new VA mobile clinic stationed along Stadium Drive in Bluefield.

“It’s the first time I’ve had any benefits from the VA,” he said. “I’ve just enrolled. I don’t know how much they’re going to pay.”

Local veterans advocate Al Hancock, an Air Force veteran, urged fellow veterans to study veterans’ benefits and ask a lot of questions. If the VA denies an application for benefits, keep trying.

“Whatever you do, don’t give up,” he said.

In some cases, veterans are told they have too much money to qualify for benefits. Most retired veterans do not have much income, Hancock said.

“What’s too much money?” Hancock asked. “We’re not talking Bill Gates or Donald Trump.”

When a veteran passes away, their spouses and dependents could be eligible for benefits, Johnson said. Information for spouses and dependents of veterans is also available at va.gov.

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