Veterans Benefits Are Available If You Apply For Them

Veterans Benefits Are Available If You Apply For Them

Virginia Tomlin has had the unique experience of working with veterans from World War I and every war since then during a 38-year career with the Veterans Bureau of Cape May County, New Jersey.

Each war has been unique in its own way and working with these veterans has enabled Tomlin to help each generation bridge the gap between the military and civilian life. It has not always been easy.

One of the problems, she admits, is getting veterans to come in to discuss the next stage of their life and what benefits are available that might make that transition easier.

"I have no idea how many veterans we have in this area," she says. "I only know those who actually come here — and most of them are from WWII and Vietnam. Some are younger, but most served in Vietnam. Only a handful are from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Some are looking for compensation and others are concerned with health care. I tell them what they are entitled to. They often don't consider that there are a lot of benefits they can apply for. Many of them don't take advantage of what is available to them."

Unlike the veterans from earlier wars, younger veterans have often served several deployments and that has had an impact on them, according to Tomlin.

"Many of them are suffering from PTSD and those who served in Vietnam from Agent Orange. They're looking for VA compensation, health care, to establish claims or increase  claims.  The services are doing a very good job of providing information to veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan when they are discharged. And they are lot more computer saavy than those who served in Vietnam or before, so a lot of them do it on their own.

'"Like any younger person coming out of the service, they want to find a job and take care of their family.  A lot of them don't take advantage of the benefits available to them. It's all up to the person and how they investigate."

Referring to some of the reserve and national guard members who were called to active duty, Tomlin said, "Some of these guys were deployed five or six times — they don't know the enemy, they've seen traumatic things and there's a lot of PTSD. On the other hand, our medical people have gotten so much better over the years that we haven't seen the impact as much as in the past."

Do you think there's anger over the process and that's why they haven't taken advantage of the veteran's benefits? 

"I don't see that," Tomlin said. "I think it's just a busy world and they're young, they have families and they want to get on with their life. Some of them were older when they were called up. They had a job, a career. It's not always easy to just pick up the pieces."

What have you learned from working with veterans over the years that you would like to pass on?

"Well, if you are going to file a claim with the VA, it's important to use someone who is certified and educated about the rules and regulations of the VA," she said. "If the paperwork is not filled out or filed properly it will be sent back to you, so it's really important to get it right from the beginning."

Is there a Veterans Bureau in every county in New Jersey and in other states? 

"Not necessarily in every county," she responded, "but there are Veterans Bureaus in every state and of course you can apply directly to the VA or get information on veterans services near where you live."

Is  there anything else you would like to say?