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Veterans panel touches on wide range of programs available

United States Military branch tapes and dog tags on camouflage uniform
zim286/Getty Images/iStockphoto
United States Military branch tapes and dog tags on camouflage uniform

Chip Gilliland asked the veterans at Penn College to remember three aways from the Let’s Talk, Vet 2 Vet panel in Williamsport.

"Never pay for veterans services. Don't do claims and stuff on your own, get an accredited veteran's service officer to help you out," he said. "Third thing is there are a lot of community resources out there.”

Gilliland is a veteran and the chief of the Division of Reintegration and Outreach for PA’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA). He joined local, state and federal advocates, including representatives from the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center, the federal veterans affairs office, Vet Center and the PA National Guard Family Program, at the panel discussion on Monday, Aug. 28. The conversation, hosted by the state DMVA, focused on the services and programs available to veterans and their families. The event also featured a veterans resource fair.

Jeff Croak, a veterans service officer in Clinton County, discussed how county offices help veterans get connected to the benefits they earned through their military service.

"We work hand in hand with the state and federal VA, to help veterans apply for benefits, whether it be disability compensation, healthcare, educational benefits, real estate tax exemptions," he said. "The list goes on and on and on.”

County offices are veterans’ primary stop, he said.

"If we can't do it for you," he said. "We can at least point you in the right direction.”

Mike McMunn is the director of Lycoming County Veteran Affairs. He's also a veterans mentor and works with veterans in the justice system who are going through Veterans Court.

“It's not the judge ... it's not a counselor, it's not a social worker, it's not the bank," he said. "It's just another vet. It's a vet who will partner with them, maybe answer questions.”

He said one of their big needs is more mentors.

"We have an increasing number of veterans who are justice involved," McMunn said.

The discussion Monday touched on a variety of programs available to veterans and their families, including MilitaryShare. The program provides monthly food assistance.

“There's no boundaries whatsoever to take care of veterans, anywhere at anytime," said Croak.

For more details or to watch previous veteran town halls, visit www.dmva.pa.gov/Veterans/Miscellaneous/Pages/VeteranTownHalls.aspx

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.