Delaney visits Washington County to discuss veterans' issues
Coverage from the Hagerstown Herald-Mail on Rep. John Delaney's Veterans' Constituent Services Workshop in Hagerstown:
U.S. Rep. John Delaney addressed the concerns of veterans and their families at a workshop held Wednesday at the Fletcher Branch of the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown.
Delaney, D-Md., and his staff discussed the issues veterans could face with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, while pointing out other services that are available to them.
The workshop took place the same week The Associated Press reported that the VA failed to meet its goal of seeing patients within 30 days for about 8,800 of more than 303,000 appointments in Maryland during the six-month period ending Feb. 28.
Delaney — who was also joined by representatives from multiple organizations who assist veterans — said one major issue is that veterans are not aware of some of the programs available to them other than the VA. One of the goals of the workshop was to provide them with more information, he said.
"Our veterans do have a lot of things available to them that sometimes they're not accessing, and it's our job to make sure they understand that all those things are available," Delaney said.
A veterans benefit specialist from the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, representatives from the Maryland Veterans Commission, a student services and outreach coordinator from the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and a veteran's representative from the Washington County Job Center attended the workshop to discuss their services.
Caseworkers were there to help with veterans' health care, claims for compensation or pensions, replacement of medals, receipt of discharge papers, and other services.
Delaney said there are many benefits available to veterans, as there should be, but often they need to be pointed in the right direction.
"Sometimes, working your way through those things are complicated, so what we try to do is do a lot of outreach and have things like this workshop so that we're really giving our veterans an opportunity to understand the things that are available for them," he said.
'Shouldn't be happening'
Hagerstown resident Richard Reid, who served in the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam from 1966-68, said he went to the workshop looking for some answers.
Reid, 66, said he has filed multiple claims and had trouble receiving benefits from injuries, such as having a leech in his arm for six months after returning to the United States.
Reid also has heart problems, which he said did not start until after he came back from Vietnam and is an issue that nobody else in his family has.
"They've really forgot about the Vietnam veterans and the plights and the tribulations that we've been through over a 45-year period, which is outrageous for a country as powerful as America," he said. "This shouldn't be happening."
Delaney — who earlier this year signed onto the Veterans' Bill of Rights and became a co-sponsor of the Real Choice for Veterans Act aiming to increase health care options for veterans — said it is important for veterans to have access to other services outside of the VA.
"We have a situation where the VA has many dedicated people, but it is a bureaucracy, and it's large and cumbersome and slow, and we've got a lot of demands for their services based on all these (military) engagements we've had, particularly in the last decade or so, and they're just overwhelmed," he said.
He said that working for veterans is one of the most important things every member of Congress does.
"They've made the ultimate sacrifice for us," he said. "The least we can do is make sure we're dedicated and focused on their needs, and they have a fair amount of needs."
Smithsburg resident Dennis Wenthe, who served in Vietnam in the 1st Air Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army in 1969-70, said he wanted to attend the workshop to spread the word that the VA has taken care of him and to push for a VA presence in Western Maryland.
Wenthe, 66, who was wounded in combat, said that although veterans do not receive as much assistance as they should, the situation is improving.
"There's a lot of veterans out there that don't know that there are programs available for them," he said. "That's the biggest problem. The word doesn't get out to a lot of veterans that really need it."