Veterans benefits assistance events coming to South Carolina, North Carolina
In late 2021, then-American Legion Department of South Carolina Commander Ron Price visited a Veterans Benefits Live event taking placing in Wilmington, where he saw staff from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), veterans service officers and veterans needing benefits assistance meeting face to face in a setting that allowed the veterans to be awarded a disability rating or increase on the spot.
He came away impressed and shared what he saw with then-Department Adjutant Nick Diener and Price’s first vice commander, Jeff Jarvis. Wanting to see the impact of the event himself, Jarvis accompanied Price on a visit to a similar Veterans Benefits Live event coordinated by American Legion Post 67 in Cary, N.C.
“That’s when I realized there was no embellishment (on the part of Price) there,” said Jarvis, who was elected department commander last June. “I saw the veterans they were helping. I stood at the exit door and talked to several of them as they walked out, and they were very happy. So, I looked at Ron driving back the next day and said, ‘Why don’t we do this as a department.’ And that’s exactly what we decided to do.”
South Carolina’s first Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC) will take place on March 23 and 24 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and on March 25 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the South Carolina National Guard Armory, SCNG 1225 Bluff Road in Columbia.
The Department of South Carolina is teaming with staff from VA and the South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and a handful of other veterans service organizations to put on the event. Veterans service officers will be on site to assist veterans wanting to file new VA claims, check on an existing claim or an appeal, or ask about VA healthcare. Veterans attending the event are urged to bring their DD214 and any medical records related to their current disability.
Jarvis said in planning for the event, the department took its time because “the first time has got to be a total success. So, we picked the end of March to do it, and we’ve been working on it since last June. And it’s been a collective effort. I’ve got the (American Legion) Riders doing parking. I’ve got the Auxiliary doing registrations and checking them in. It’s everybody.”
Every veteran who attends and registers will be seen. To avoid overcrowding, those attending are asked to adhere to the follow recommendations for visiting the VEAC:
· March 23 – veterans who have a Social Security number ending in 00-33;
· March 24 – veterans who have a Social Security number ending in 34-66;
· March 25 – veterans who have a Social Security number ending in 67-99.
Jarvis said with the implementation of the PACT Act, the number of people who show up for the event could be significant. “We have veterans out there that are happy with their rating,” he said. “We have no earthly idea how many people are going to show up (at the VEAC). The PACT Act made it more difficult to guess because who would not have come before because they’re happy with what they have are going to show up because they don’t know what the PACT Act will do for them. I think the PACT Act is going to increase the numbers dramatically. Whatever they come in with, we want them to leave understanding exactly what they need to do to complete their picture.”
The VEAC in Columbia will be happening simultaneously with a similar one in Cary, N.C. American Legion Post 67 in Cary is again collaborating with federal and state agencies on a Veterans Benefits Live (VBL), providing veterans with face-to-face time to check on their VA clams.
The scheduled times for the VBL are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. March 23-24 and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. March 25 at the Cary Herbert Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave., Cary. Veterans seeking assistance are asked to bring their DD214, both military and civilian military records, and dependency documents either new or not previously submitted to VA.
Wait times could be long; free snacks, coffee and water will be provided. For more information, contact Richard Spyrison at CaryVEAC@gmail.com.