Iowa City VA hosts Veterans Expo to help veterans understand healthcare benefits, resources

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) — As veterans day approaches the Iowa City VA Health Care System wants to make sure Iowa vets are taking advantage of the resources and services they’re earned.

That’s why the organization hosted a Veterans Expo at the Veteran’s Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids today form 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Public Affairs Officer for Iowa City VA, Bryan Clark, said the idea was to have a one-stop-shop for veterans of all ages and branches to come to ask questions, check on claims, and find new services.

Clark is a veteran himself, who served in the Navy. He said there’s a number of myths when it comes to VA care.

A common one he said he hears is, “I didn’t serve in combat so I’m not eligible or I don’t want to take the place of someone who really needs it more than I do. And those things just aren’t the reality. We get reimbursed for the care and services we provide to each veteran. So the more veterans we get the more care and services we provide, that’s really how it works.”

Among the veterans at the expo, which featured 20 VA programs and booths of 14 community partners was Bernie Friedel.

Friedel, a Navy Veteran who served from 1967-68 in Vietnam said he’s glad he got to know what options were available to him when he did.

“I never really went to the VA until I started taking my father and my uncle who were in the service and then I learned more about the program and got more involved myself,” said Friedel.

Friedel was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and has a number of other health complications. He decided to check out the Expo to ensure he was taking full advantage of the services that are provided and thinks others who aren’t are missing out.

“I think that’s a mistake because they offer so much. It’s way different now than say two years ago,” said Friedel.

According to Clark, the VA Health Care System relies on community partners to pick up slack for some services, such as service dogs.

“For instance, our transplant team is here to talk about being a living donor or getting a kidney or pancreas transplant, which we do at the VA. There is also someone here talking about service dogs for veterans. We don’t do at the VA so we invited our community partners to do that,” said Clark.

“I knew they changed lives but until I got into this you don’t have any concept how they change that person’s life but everyone around them,” said Sherry Steine Ross, co-founder of Deafinitely Dogs.

They’re one of the community partners in attendance today spreading the word about the work they do to help veterans cope with PTSD, hearing difficulties, and other ailments by offering specialized service dogs.

“The veterans that come to them [The VA] that are looking for a service dog but didn’t fit their protocols, they can send them to us. They know the changes that the dogs make, the trainers see it every day,” said Ross.

For some veterans at the Expo, it was their first time looking into VA benefits and weren’t sure if they even qualified.

Clark said that’s the main objective of the event, “All of the benefits and services that veterans have earned all in one convenient location. so they just have to make a one-stop shot if they want to check on benefits, claims they’ve made, get their flu shot.”

Do you know if you qualify for benefits through the VA? To find out visit the VA’s website here: https://www.va.gov/health-care/eligibility/.

Or call 1-844-698-2311. If you have hearing loss you can call TTY: 711.

Deafinitely Dogs rely heavily on community donations to help fundraise the cost of service dogs for veterans. To get involved or learn more about its services, visit their website.

Ashley Neighbor

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids
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