A small town meeting in Missouri was held recently, which had a single purpose: to explain all of the federal and state benefits available to veterans in that area. After a detailed explanation of all of the federal and state benefits, it was opened up for a question and answer session to make sure that everyone knew exactly what benefits were available to them and how to access them. While this kind of meeting isn’t exactly common, it should be the norm.
In June, Virginia will be hosting a seminar for veterans and their families to come and ask questions of several Benefits Counselors and other representatives from various non-profit organizations that help veterans to make sure that all of them have the opportunity to take advantage of all of the benefits that are available to them. The question is, will there be a good turnout? When these sort of events are hosted, do many veterans show up? Do informational meetings and seminars such as these result in increased usage of veteran benefits?
Meetings of this nature tend to get very little publicity. It becomes difficult to spread the word to all those who would like to know about it and none of the people who don’t care. In fact, the author did an experiment googling the phrase “veterans benefits town hall meeting “city name”” and using different cities, and every single one of the 7 the author tried had a result for a meeting that had taken place in that city recently, with the exception of Salt Lake City, whose last one was in 2005. What this tells us is that these sort of meetings happen all the time, but awareness of these meetings varies, and, as a result, the number of attendees varies as well. The Virginia seminar in June is expected to have a good turnout, as it has the sponsoring of several non-profit organizations that exist to help veterans, and thus has a powerful marketing force working on it’s behalf, but many smaller meetings are often held by request, and don’t even make it onto the city newsletter or website. In these cases, many veterans who have questions about their benefits aren’t able to utilize the informational meeting or seminar any more than they are able to use their benefits. But, thanks to 21st-century technology, informational town meetings, and seminars are not the only way to learn about veteran benefits available to you.
While it is nice to have an opportunity to sit down with a knowledgeable person and ask them specific questions about your benefits, most if not all questions can be answered by a quick visit to your state’s website. Most questions can also be answered by a call to the VA’s office, where the representative may provide you with a link or perhaps even send you documentation on federal benefits. Questions regarding state benefits available to you can usually be answered by going to the state veterans website (usually something like www.veterans.STATE.gov). Indeed, many of the state websites also have links to federal benefits.
The biggest key in learning exactly what benefits available to you is to simply ask. It is not uncommon for veterans to not want to ask about their benefits for fear of being seen as needy, greedy, or selfish, and it’s important to know that there is nothing greedy about helping the country keep its end of the bargain. Sometimes that involves asking lots of direct questions to make sure you understand exactly what the country’s end of the bargain entails. Another reason many veterans don’t take advantage of their benefits is they find it more trouble dealing with the VA than the benefits are worth. This is a case where your voice truly matters. Changes only happen when decision-makers are aware of the problems. Be knowledgeable about what benefits are available to you, and if red-tape, bad policies, or just an indifferent customer service representative is standing in the way, solve the problem. Your benefits are part of the contract between the United States Government and you. You filled your end of the contract, now make it as easy as possible for the government to fulfill its end.