Essential services: Veteran Resource Fair Brings Vendors and Vets Together at Evansville Wartime Museum
Included Red Cross, Veterans Benefit Administration, Disabled American Veteran
The Veterans' Seminar and Resource Fair Friday, April 22, brought a variety of speakers and service agencies to the Evansville Wartime Museum. Unlike the past two years, these groups were able to meet their potential clients in person.
Tables wrapped around the airplanes on display in the museum hangar as veterans chat with each other, and with more than 40 local and statewide agencies that could have essential services for them.
These included the Red Cross, Vanderburgh Veterans Service Office and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Vietnam veteran Bert Martin is a retired Air Force Medic. He’s looking for help getting hearing aids after a bad fall left him with hearing loss.
“And after everything I've been through in my life, especially coming through Nam, to step over a guardrail lose your hearing is almost like, you know, what am I doing here?” he said with a chuckle.
Martin says he’s also suffered from exposure from agent orange. He appreciates all these services that have been brought together for this event, but thinks it could be easier for veterans to reach the services they need at home.
Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs Director Dennis Wimer agrees with this sentiment.
“The thing that needs to happen on a constant and regular basis is we all have to be willing and able and connected to work together,” he said. “Because none of these organizations solve every need. They need to know the other organizations, and they need to be connected to be able to refer, to be connect folks to those other needs.”
He says it’s important for veterans to discover the services they may need, but didn’t know were available.
Veterans by local Indiana county
Source: US Census Bureau 2017 numbers
Vanderburgh County: 13,403 veterans; 7.4 percent (of the total population)
Posey County: 1,769 veterans; 6.9 percent
Gibson County: 2,278 veterans; 6.8 percent
Warrick County: 4,159 veterans; 6.7 percent
US Representative Dr Larry Bucshon’s office setup the event in conjunction with the Offices of Senators Todd Young and Mike Braun. Bucshon said there is still a big problem with veteran homelessness, substance abuse and mental health problems.
“And that's just a struggle, you know, to identify those veterans, and to help them with their situation,” he said. “So there's a tremendous amount of opportunity in the mental health space for us to do better.”
He said there have been improvements in services recently. He mentioned the Veterans Choice Program that allows veterans to make medical appointments outside of the Veterans Administration (VA) system , if a VA appointment will be too difficult to attend or take too long to receive.
Dennis Wimer says that just meeting in person like this can also make a big difference.
“Our service was not by ourselves in a small room, it was connected with our brothers and sisters that we served with and as veterans want to connect with them,” he said.
Veterans seeking assistance can go to www.IN.gov/dva.