Veterans help|VA sends mobile unit to visit Vicksburg vets

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 21, 2010

Military veterans lined up at the Elks Club on U.S. 61 South Saturday, saving themselves a drive to north Jackson for health care and help with benefits.

“I do appreciate this because have been having a hard time getting over there,” said Michael Hedrick, 62 and a Vietnam vet who lives in Redwood. “This will help me a lot.”

Detrick Bryant, chief of ambulatory care at the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Veterans Administration in Jackson, said Vicksburg was chosen to offer enrollment and services to the 2,000 to 4,000 veterans who had not signed up with the medical center.

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“There’s a large percentage we wanted to try to capture,” he said.

Sidney Ervin, VA veteran administration volunteer services for the Elks Lodge of Mississippi, said the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks No. 95 hosted the program to help vets who cannot get to Jackson.

At the lodge Saturday, veterans signed up in the building and then visited one of two mobile health centers in the parking lot for physical examinations and flu and H1N1 vaccinations.

“It’s pretty much a full service,” said Katie Babineaux-Alexis, VA program manager.

She said the Jackson center and the VA Regional Office for Benefits are visiting where few seek vets’ assistance and Warren County has one of the highest populations not registered.

Deborah Thomas, public affairs officer, said the VA is attempting to send a van to Vicksburg regularly. Similar vehicles travel to Hattiesburg, Meridian, Columbus and Natchez.

Some veterans do not sign up because they do not know their status, Babineaux-Alexis said.

Veterans are encouraged to bring their discharge forms and photo identification when enrolling immediately after military service to receive benefits. Many young or newly discharged veterans often wait until they are older — when income restrictions apply, Bryant said.

“You don’t have to be old — if you are out of the military or if you are a veteran,” Thomas said. “You could be 19 years old and be a veteran.”

Contact Tish Butts at