Military News

Program gives new veterans tips on benefits

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD 
 US Army eteran Ken McKelvain of Gulfport looks at an exhibit by the Gulf Coast Health Care Center's Blind Rehabilitation Center during a Welcome Home event for veterans at VFW Post 2434 in Biloxi on Saturday Oct. 24, 2015.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD US Army eteran Ken McKelvain of Gulfport looks at an exhibit by the Gulf Coast Health Care Center's Blind Rehabilitation Center during a Welcome Home event for veterans at VFW Post 2434 in Biloxi on Saturday Oct. 24, 2015. SUN HERALD

BILOXI -- Gulf Coast veterans were "welcomed home" Saturday during a day-long cookout at VFW Post 2434 in Biloxi.

The cookout was part of the "Welcome Home Veterans" program established in 2007 by the Veterans Health Administration.

"The intent of the program is to transition veterans during multiple deployments to make sure they have access to programs and they are educated on the services available," organizer Larry Parker said. "It was mandated that each year the VA would have a welcome home event to welcome the veterans recently returning from deployments."

Saturday's cookout featured a band, inflatables for children, free hamburgers and hotdogs and booths with veteran services information.

"We want them to come out and have a good time and be able to access VA services," Parker said. "We've been doing this since 2007 all across the Coast from Louisiana to Florida. We usually have a good turnout. But veterans value their time, so our challenge is to find events that are appealing to the veterans."

Veterans got information on subjects such as VA benefits, caregiver support and health-care eligibility.

Biloxi VA Audiology and Speech Pathology Service Chief Dr. Margaret Peak said the modern veteran is more technologically savvy and the welcome home cookout offers them information on the latest technology available for those suffering with health issues such as hearing problems.

"We can now set hearing aids to your TVs and iPhones," Peak said. "Ringing in the ears is the biggest problem we see with returning veterans. We have a number of services available to help with this issue or with hearing issues."

"I haven't been deployed since 2014," Zackery Wilson of Biloxi said. "But I will be getting discharged from the Navy on Nov. 15. I came here to see what services will be available for me once I'm discharged. This helps me to get prepared for my life outside of the military."

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