By Marsha M. Brown
With the pending arrival of 2014, we can’t help but reflect on life as we saw it this year. Personally, I feel blessed, thankful and more empowered than ever to seek my dreams and goals in life…and each of you who read GIG LINE are a part of that. One goal in particular is to continue to actively and aggressively seek new productive ways to help our veterans and their families in Dare County.
Its undeniable that in 2013 interest among veterans to embrace the work of the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council has increased; more vets are eager to obtain their Veteran I. D. Card; to learn more about Agent Orange Screening; to seek information about potential benefits and/or entitlements and not only for themselves but for their spouse; to register their DD-214 at the Register of Deeds office for permanent safe keeping; to attend veteran functions in greater numbers than ever before but also the increased interest overall to promote, celebrate and acknowledge our Dare County veterans has gladdened everyone’s heart to say the least.
From countless sources, I’ve heard positive remarks about the work we’re all doing together in our county to show our veterans that we care and that we are thankful for their (your) service to our country. Those who faithfully attend events on Memorial Day and over the Veterans Day weekend annually have commented on the increased number of attendees this year. Rhonda Creef, Dare County Veteran Service Officer (252-475-5604) has been extremely busy meeting with veterans and their spouses processing paperwork, submitting claims, assisting veterans with online applications for a duplicate DD-214 (that may have been lost over the years) and in other countless ways as well.
In addition to her role as Veteran Service Officer, Rhonda has also been an assistant to the Dare County Board of Commissioners for many years. Because of her obligation to protect the privacy and confidentiality of her veteran clients, she has not been seen in the public arena as much as some might expect, but trust me when I say; I have first hand knowledge from veterans themselves of her dedication to help them in any way possible. Not having known Rhonda on a personal basis prior to my involvement with veterans over the last year and a half, I’ve appreciated her dedication, interest and care of our veterans. She has attended almost every meeting of the Veterans Advisory Council; she researches and finds answers to questions that arise during our meetings; she keeps us abreast of North Carolina veteran statistics and her interest regarding activities that celebrate our veterans is apparent. Rhonda cannot fix everything and the decisions for claim approval of course are not up to her but she will listen, help you with your application process, submission and refer you to additional sources of help when necessary.
If you haven’t met Rhonda or required assistance in the past through our Dare County Veteran Service Office, please don’t put it off. It could mean that you qualify for health benefits you don’t even know that are available to you. And folks, I cannot express it enough…IF you served in Vietnam…PLEASE go see Rhonda about being screened. There are 15 health conditions – some of which you may have right now – that you may feel have nothing to do with Vietnam when in truth you could be determined as eligible or entitled to receive compensation for. Also…going to see Rhonda or to the VA Medical Center in Hampton, VA directly doesn’t mean you’d have to stop seeing your primary care physician here. Seeking potential health care may not only help you but the VA as well because each Vietnam vet they see helps them gather info on how the Agent Orange (Dioxin) affected troops in different areas of service etc. And from my direct understanding from Jeff Pearson, Integrator of the Rural Health Initiative or R.H.I. (VA outreach to veterans not close to VA medical facilities), your exam or screening, at least to this point in time, would not exceed $15 payable from you unless it was necessary that you had additional health screenings as a result of the initial physical). It’s up to you…but it could be well worth your while.
And…if your initial exam should result in your being turned down for VA benefits or entitlements, there are sources of help in that case too. How? There are veteran advocates who seek to help you challenge an unfavorable decision by the VA who will apparently review your case and if they deem it worthy of further scrutiny, they’ll proceed in your behalf with compensation due only in the case that you win according to what I’ve read. In addition, if you’re currently a member of the American Legion you may be aware of the North Carolina Department Service Officer Cajun Comeau who also encourages veterans to appeal if they have received decisions that are unfavorable. For more info please contact our local American Legion members or contact www.legion.org/serviceofficers.
As Council members who also issue the Veteran I. D. Card(s), we frequently meet veterans who come in just to acquire the ‘CARD’ but find out through talking with us and the handout material we provide that Vietnam veterans who were ‘boots on ground’ especially, really need to be screened for Agent Orange related illnesses. Some of the ones we have met and who didn’t previously know, have gone on to get their physical only to find out they were due compensation. Now, let me say that over the last almost two years I’ve personally met veterans who felt it would be wrong to seek compensation…well my friends, that’s a personal decision but this is the way I look at it. You served our nation; you risked your life; you lost time with your family and loved ones that you’ll never get back; you were and are our heroes and if your service resulted in your being sick…why would you not be worthy of compensation? Free prescriptions? Counseling for P.T.S.D.? Again…any benefit you are eligible to receive is not a gift…it is earned. I’m not preaching but please don’t be stubborn about this. You deserve anything good that can come your way.
My sweetie pie Billy (Vietnam veteran) is a member of our American Legion Fort Raleigh Post 26 and the Nags Head V.F.W. Post 10950 and believe me when I say he reads the relative monthly magazines from cover to cover that each of them send him. In the most recent The American Legion he read an article regarding Blue Water Navy and the increased determination among Navy veterans who wish to seek Agent Orange compensation. If you are not currently a member of the Legion, please make it a point to join. If you’re a member elsewhere but a Dare County permanent resident it would be helpful for you to consider requesting a transfer of your membership to our local Post.
In the next issue of GIG LINE, I’ll elaborate on the new VA medical facility currently under construction in Greenville and I will include the new I. D. Card distribution schedule for next year. More good things are yet to come for Dare County Veterans. As a Veterans Advisory Council member myself, I’m thankful for fellow loyal and very dedicated Council members: Chairman Clarence Lewis, Dale Draper, Lynda Hester, Billy Brown and Joe Pope (all of whom are veterans) who will embrace the New Year with diligent interest and care continuing the goal to honor, advise and help our Dare County veterans in every way possible.
We all have a lot to be thankful for folks and many of our blessings directly relate to those of you who have served and fought all these years so that we could live happy and free. My sweetie pie Billy and I both love and thank you and we wish you a very wonderful, blessed, healthy and prosperous 2014. Write to me at [email protected], if you have any questions or if there is something you’d like to share.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud – we are Americans after all and you just can’t get better than that! God bless you and HAPPY NEW YEAR!