Bus brings veterans info, help

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 20, 2014

The white motor home parked at the old Vicksburg Cycles dealership parking lot wasn’t some tourist taking a rest while passing through town.

It was a one-stop shop for area veterans looking for information or wanting to apply for benefits.

The G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Veterans Center Mobile Unit was in Vicksburg on Friday as part of a tour that will eventually take it to the 52 counties and parishes in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas to provide information and assistance to veterans in the area served by the Jackson office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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The tour is an annual program sponsored by the VA, said Belinda Okafor of the VA Medical Center in Jackson.

“We’re stepping up our efforts to reach and educate veterans and ensure that they are aware of the services and benefits offered through the VA,” Okafor said. “We’re coordinating our activities with the state and local veterans affairs offices. We’ve been pretty busy. We’ve had a lot of people come in, most of them during the morning.

“We’re providing information on benefits such as compensation and medical care, and helping homeless veterans or veterans who are about to become homeless,” she said. “We are signing up veterans who have not signed up for benefits, and talking with other veterans about the programs available through the VA.”

The veterans’ affairs representatives also provided information on the Affordable Care Act, which was created to provide Americans with better access to medical care and lower cost health insurance. The information to the vets, Okafor said, involved how they can use insurance acquired under ACA to supplement their medical benefits offered by the VA.

“We’re also telling female veterans that we have opened a women’s clinic at the VA medical center, so now they have their own private clinic they can go to for help,” she added.

Also available was information by the Mississippi Department of Employee Security about job hunting and job fairs.

“We’re informing them about the veterans employment skills workshop we’re having in Vicksburg as the WIN Job Center on April 25,” said MDES specialist Donald Dunaway. “In the workshop, we teach interview and resume skills and job retention, how to keep their job.”

“We had a job fair for veterans, their spouses and their children in Jackson Thursday,” Okafor said. “We had the governor participating. He came out to the fair at the Mississippi Trade Mart.”

She said veterans who want to register for benefits or need information about veterans benefits can call the Veterans Center in Jackson at 601-362-4471. For information or to register for the job fair, veterans can call 601-638-8956.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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