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Information Fair for veterans, spouses

Published on: March 21, 2019

April 2 Veterans and Spouses Information Fair offers one-on-one talks with the ‘right people’

By PHYLLIS HODGES

Bill Hodges, right, talks with Nick and Angie Orras of Parrish about the importance of spouses attending the Veterans and Spouses Information Fair to be held April 2, from 1 to 4 p.m., at the Sun City Center Community Hall.
PHYLLIS HODGES PHOTO

The April 2 Veterans and Spouses Information Fair in Sun City Center is going to be a big deal. Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 10 is sponsoring the event from 1 to 4 p.m.in the SCC Community Hall, 1910 S. Pebble Beach Blvd. Bill Hodges, DAV member and Fair organizer, said many of the invited agencies have commented that this promises to be the most comprehensive gathering they have ever seen to help veterans and their spouses, caregivers and other interested parties understand benefits and services.
There will be no formal program during the three-hour event. Its only agenda is to offer attendees the opportunity to have one-on-one talks with the right people. Although not required, veterans are encouraged to bring their DD214. If not available, staff from the VA can assist in getting a replacement.
The DAV, event sponsors, will have service officers available to talk individually about potential disability claims. In addition, military-related organizations that will be represented are American Legion, Military Order of World Wars (MOWW), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Leathernecks, Daughters of American Revolution and My Warriors Place. Sun Radio, which airs Veterans Corner (a show dedicated to veterans’ affairs), will also be on-site.
At press time, other participants include Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, Hillsborough County Veterans Affairs Department, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Sarasota National Cemetery and an array of James A. Haley Veterans Hospital services.
Hodges is passionate about helping fellow veterans and spouses learn about available benefits and services. “In a former life working in a corporate personnel department and counseling survivors, I learned how little was known about veterans’ benefits. Now, I talk to a lot of vets and find the same thing. In many cases, they have questions but don’t know who to ask or just haven’t gotten around to it. For example, I recently talked to a vet with a disabled dependent child. He didn’t know his child could be buried at the Sarasota National Cemetery along with his parents.”
It isn’t just the veteran who needs this information. Spouses, caregivers and anyone who is in a position of assisting a veteran is encouraged to attend. Angie Orras, wife of veteran Nick Orras, said, “We were recently introduced to the many benefits Nick is entitled to for serving his county. There is still so much to learn, and I fully understand why spouses are being encouraged to come to the April event.”
“Rules change,” Hodges said. He is continuously telling vets they should recheck their status even if they were previously told they weren’t eligible for a benefit, and he always emphasizes talking to the right person. That’s why he asked Haley to bring people who can talk to individuals one-on-one. Staff personnel will be assigned to tables for the entire afternoon.
For South Hillsborough County veterans, medical care is a hot topic right now with the new James A. Haley clinic opening soon in Riverview. Veterans receiving VA care at Tampa or another facility who wish to transfer can do so at this gathering. Eligibility and Enrollment staff are gearing up to be more prepared than at the last sign up/transfer opportunity in SCC when they were overwhelmed. In addition, the following Haley services will be present: Women’s Health, Geriatrics and Extended Care, Patient Advocate, My Healthy Vet, Suicide Prevention, Community Care, Patient Experience, Patient Travel, Outreach, Whole Health, Voluntary, LGBT and Flu Shot Station.
Hodges is also urging attendees to check out the new SCC Veterans Memorial in front of the SCC Community Hall. Walt Cawein will be manning a table with order blanks on hand for bricks to be added to the memorial foundation.
“This fair is a great opportunity to get questions answered about just about every veteran-related topic,” he said. “We expect to also have more detail information about the new VA clinic that is slated for opening in mid-May.”

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