(WYTV) – A lot of times when men and women return from service, they’re not always the same, whether it’s mental or physical. Some problems can seem minor but get worse over time, while others can be a lot more serious.
There are certain organizations that can help make disability claims for these problems and get veterans help through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and they’re a lot closer than you think.
Military veterans across the country who want to make disability claims with the VA for ailments they suffer from as a result of their time in service can get help with those claims through Veterans Service officers.
“The state of Ohio, it is a statutory requirement that every county has at least one Veterans Service officer,” said Herm Breuer, director of the Trumbull County Veterans Service Commission in Warren.
Breuer and others in his office work directly with the VA to get veterans disability and education benefits.
“Wherever they are, the veterans in those communities, they still need services. So, the Department of Veterans Affairs knows that they don’t have the people in place in those communities, so they count on government agencies like ours — like Mercer County, like Mahoning County — they count on us to be able to work with their veterans to get them the resources they need,” he said.
Breuer’s office works with about 4,500 veterans a year.
In his 15 years there, Breuer has had 60-90 new vets make claims every month. They come from all backgrounds, most from the Vietnam era, but there’s been a steady increase in those who’ve served post 9/11.
“If we looked at the numbers prior to, say, 2010, the number of those veterans seeking services or resources were not all that high. We were not seeing a lot of those veterans get tied to resources. But now that the war has been going on for close to 20 years, we are starting to see a lot of those veterans come out,” Breuer said.
Those seeking service connection with the VA can make a variety of disability claims, but one stands out the most.
“So, hearing loss is the largest factor. Obviously, the majority of jobs when you’re serving in the military, you’re exposed loud noise, whether it’s weapons or aircraft or diesel engines,” Breuer said.
After hearing loss, Breuer says the other two most often claimed disabilities are PTSD and another that only applies to veterans from a certain era.
“It’s going to depend upon when the individual served, too. Vietnam veterans, the veterans who served in country Vietnam, exposed to Agent Orange, they’re going to have disabilities related to that exposure: heart disease, lung cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes,” Breuer said.
In June, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 was passed. It goes into effect in January 2020 and helps those who served on ships in Vietnam.
“Veterans that served in the Gulf of Tonkin Responsibility for Vietnam, those individuals were not eligible for the same benefits for disability related to exposure to Agent Orange as the veterans who served on land. So, they were able to prove the water off the shores of Vietnam, the water that the ships utilized for the sailors and Marines that served on those ships was contaminated by Agent Orange,” Breuer said.
If a veteran’s disability claim is approved, they’re assigned a percentage depending on the severity, and that determines the care they receive and possible monetary compensation.
Breuer says he’s glad when vets are not afraid to ask for the help they deserve.
“It’s encouraging to see those veterans reach out for those services that can either get them the education they need to maybe get the tools to become employed, or to be able to get those health care services that they might be lacking because they don’t have employment that provides those health care services for them,” he said.
If you’re a veteran and want to make a disability claim with the VA, it’s as simple as reaching out to your county’s Veterans Service Office and making an appointment.
Mahoning County Veterans Services (345 Oak Hill Ave. Suite 100, Youngstown) 330-740-2451
Trumbull County Veterans Services (253 E. Market St., Warren) 330-675-2585
Columbiana County Veterans Services (7989 Dickey Dr. Suite 1, Lisbon) 330-424-7214
Mercer County Veterans Affairs (14 Courthouse, Mercer, PA) 724-662-7511
Lawrence County Veteran’s Office (430 Court Street, New Castle, PA) 724-656-2180