Veteran services

Veterans Services Office Helps Bring $115 Million in Benefits, Catawba County Has Months Backlog

Each week, workers at the Catawba County Veterans Services office encounter a veteran or a family member of a veteran who is unaware of certain benefits they may be receiving.

TJ Rose, an office volunteer and Air Force veteran, said pride can also get in the way. He said some veterans have the misconception that accepting benefits could mean depriving other veterans they perceive to be in greater need.

“If we don’t take advantage of these benefits that we’re entitled to, that we’re entitled to,” he said, “it won’t go to another veteran who may have lost a limb to a device. improvised explosive device in Iraq.. Their advantages are also defined there.

Helping veterans and their survivors get the benefits they are entitled to is the mission of the Office of Veterans Services, located in the Emergency Services Wing of the Catawba County Justice Center.

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Veterans Services Officer Becky Young said the office helped secure $115 million in benefits in one year for the more than 10,000 veterans who live in Catawba County. “Some of the things we do are life changing,” Young said. “So what we do every day is just an honor. And sometimes we just feel overwhelmed with joy that we can just help these veterans and their family members.

Rose gave the example of a veteran’s widow who was able to receive over $20,000 in benefits plus reimbursement for burial expenses.

The widow, who received about $600 a month through her husband’s Social Security payment, received about $1,800 in monthly benefits after working with the office, he said.

Backlog of appointments

Still, the office faces challenges.

Young said she had a backlog of appointments until February. The office can handle about six appointments a day and handles what she describes as a steady stream of people seeking help.

Young took over the role of veterans services officer in March following the departure of longtime veterans services officer Cindy Travis. Although the office has hired a second employee, a seasoned service technician, in recent weeks, Young said she was the only person with the authority to file official documents in the past seven months.

Rose began volunteering at the office in the spring, but said he will have to step down from the volunteer role by the end of the year. He said more paid staff and a director’s position in the office were needed to reduce the backlog.

“There has to be a director in this position,” Rose said. “Someone who can go to vet cafes, vet meetings and work in the community, but also be able to step in here and do official paperwork as well.”

The office is funded by the county and is expected to receive nearly $152,200 for the current year, said Catawba County Communications and Marketing Director Amy McCauley. Rose said he spoke with Catawba County Commissioner Randy Isenhower about additional resources for the office.

Isenhower said after speaking with Rose, he asked county staff to look at various models of veterans services used in other counties. “We’ll probably wait for a new board until we look at how – if at all, I’m not saying for sure – how, if at all, our model can be changed from what we’re doing now. to give better service,” Isenhower said.

“I literally watched the fire burn off the oxygen from his mouth.”

Young and Rose are the only two veterans currently working at the Veterans Services Bureau.

Young, 50, spent a total of six years in the U.S. military between active duty and reserve duty. She comes from an army family; his grandfather, father, sister and brother all served.

Much of her time in the service was spent in Germany as a mechanic on heavy equipment. Young said she was part of the state’s only all-female honor guard. The honor guard participates in funerals and parades and recently competed in the American League World Series in Shelby.

Rose, 44, joined the US Air Force in June 2001, initially for educational benefits. However, it soon became clear that his service would be defined by America’s post-9/11 wars.

He served three tours in Iraq as Joint Terminal Attack Controller, calling in airstrikes in support of U.S. Army operations.

Rose described her first tour as relatively uneventful. On the second tour, he was awarded a Purple Heart after remnants of an exploded house hit him in the face, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury that impaired his memory.

Rose recalls an awkward encounter when he went to speak to a couple, only to find he had been a part of the couple’s wedding and had no memory of it.

Then there was a third tour of duty in Ramadi in 2005. Thinking back to that last tour, Rose recounts a long list of improvised explosive device attacks he encountered directly or witnessed.

He recalled an instance where a group of soldiers came to rescue Rose and her comrades after they were hit by an explosive.

The service members coming to help encountered their own explosive, and Rose described seeing the other service members exit the burning vehicle. “I literally watched the fire burn the oxygen from his mouth as he stole his scream as he got shot at the same time,” Rose said of one of the soldiers.

He also recounted an airstrike that ended up killing a little girl, her sister and her mother, who were in a house where an insurgent was firing on US troops.

“Those were tough decisions to make,” Rose said. “You don’t question authority in the moment and get rid of it, but over the years it eats away at you emotionally and meets guys who were in similar situations and could relate to. Camaraderie is something you simply cannot put a price on.

Kevin Griffin is the Hickory City Reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.