Commentary: Veterans Affairs aims to reach out to local heroes
November 8, 2010
<b><i>Retirees urged to apply for unclaimed benefits</i></b>
HONOLULU - Literally hundreds of veterans' organizations are available here, and nearly all of them participate in the parades and observances at various landmarks, towns and military bases to salute all service veterans on this unique and special day.
With the abundance of historical military bases here on Oahu, Veterans Day observations are more solemn here than at other locations.
Veterans Day is a time to reflect and recognize some of our local heroes and to promote awareness of the services available to them. For example, the VA, here, serves our veterans and provides the homeless with clothing, food coupons, showers and all kinds of other assistance.
Also, each year, the services host a Retiree Appreciation Day. This year, approximately 400 people attended the Army's event at Schofield Barracks, Oct. 9. Flu shots and health care screenings were available to attendees, and veterans' organizations set up displays and tables for retirees and their families to get the latest information and resources available to them.
In addition, Brig. Gen. Keith Gallagher, commanding general, Tripler Army Medical Center, gave a presentation about military health care and retiree benefits.
Although primarily an informational event, Retiree Appreciation Day is also a celebration of the military retiree community and the strong support provided by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, here. It is a special, camaraderie-boosting event, which helps retirees still feel connected to and remain knowledgeable about the Army.
But as always, at these appreciation days, I am amazed at the number of veterans, including military retirees, who have not made appointments with the VA to have their health conditions evaluated since they left the service.
Further, a significant number of retirees have VA ratings for disabilities, but for one reason or another, they have never applied for combat-related special compensation. As a result, billions of dollars remain unclaimed for many veterans who would have received this extra, tax-free, monthly check, and in some instances, retroactive pay from July 2003 - simply because they did not apply for it.
Veterans need to take this time and check out the benefits and services they are entitled to and deserve.
As we get ready to observe Veterans Day 2010, we reflect on all the heroes, who day in and day out, did all they could for their country.
It is only fitting that veterans avail themselves of the benefits they earned.