How one community delivered for veterans
Despite the record heat on July 19 and 20, 2019, in Davenport, Iowa, more than 600 veterans and their family members attended the Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC) at St. Ambrose University. The event was held to bring together community service providers, veteran service organizations, and other government partners to provide services, resources and information directly to veterans and those currently serving.
Planning for Quad Cities Veterans Experience Action Center began in May 2018 in collaboration with the Veterans Experience Office, the National Cemetery Administration, VBA regional offices, Iowa City VA Health Care System, the local Vet Center, two Community Veteran Engagement Boards, the Rock Island Arsenal, UnityPoint Health Trinity, the United Way, St. Ambrose University and many more; all came together to ensure veterans have the resources, services, and information needed to get to "yes."
Community partners took on this challenging event knowing it would have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of veterans in their community, which made the many months of planning worth it.
A Veteran and his spouse learning more about many different resources available.
"I have desire to help the ones that served our Nation in uniform and knew there was a need in the Quad Cities area to bring together community partners and VA under one building to provide information and resources to Veterans," said Daniel Joiner, Director of Community Engagement at UnityPoint Health Trinity and Quad Cities VEAC organizer.
During the two-day event, the Des Moines, IA, and Chicago, IL, Veterans Benefit Administration regional offices were on-site to assist veterans wanting to file a disability compensation claim, check on a claim decision, check on the status of an existing claim, obtain representation from a Veteran Service Organization, receive counseling services through the mobile Vet Center and learn about many other community resources.
After reading about the Quad Cities VEAC's success on day one, Paige, a U.S. Army veteran, flew from Baltimore, MD, for the VEAC's second day.
U.S. Army Veteran Paige waiting to meet with representatives from Veterans Benefits Administration.
"After reading the excellent reviews, I knew this event would be best opportunity for me to receive some answers. I was told by the representative from the regional office I would have a decision within a week," said Paige.
Another veteran from Orlando, FL, heard about the VEAC in April 2019 and booked his flight and hotel room to attend. Army veteran, Vincent, had been struggling for years to get the help he needed. "This event was just what is needed for veterans. Today, I was able to get all of my issues resolved. I can now go back home and sleep peacefully," he said.
Paige and Vincent were not the only two veterans that were from out of state. Veterans from Alaska, Texas and one Marine Corps veteran from Belgium and her mother, an Army veteran, attended to take advantage of the resources that were available.
U.S. Army Veteran Vincent discussing how important it was for him to attend the Quad Cities VEAC.
The Iowa City VA Health Care System provided information, enrollment and eligibility representatives so veterans could enroll in VA health care. "Often times, many veterans are unsure if they are eligible for VA health care benefits, that's why we are here today to assist veterans in registering for benefits they earned. During the two day event, we were able to enroll 46 veterans to receive VA health care benefits," said the Iowa City VA Health Care System's Director, Judith Johnson-Mekota.
Carmen Gamble, an Army veteran that retired at the rank of Command Sergeant Major and works for VA's Veterans Experience Office explained, "Over the two-day event, more than 30 community partners and dozens of VA staff came together here in the Quad Cities to serve our Nation's Heroes to help them receive what they need. We plan to engage other communities in other states to look at how a Veterans Experience Action Centers could benefit their veteran population."
Several more Veterans Experience Action Centers including San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sep. 4-6, 2019; and Cary, North Carolina, Sep. 18-21, 2019, are being planned.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.