Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Witness Testimony of Gary M. Whitehead, Elkhart, IN, Elkhart County Veterans Service Officer
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a tremendous honor to be here today. I have been a County Veterans Service Officer for twenty two years after I retired from the Navy in July 1986.
When our Guardsmen and Reservist’s return home, they are required to complete three days of classes covering everything from seeing a Chaplain to having a briefing from individual’s from Work Force One concerning their re-employment rights.
Even today when I interview a WWII; Korean or Vietnam veteran, I ask them if their disabilities were documented in their service medical records and they advise me that they were not because they would have had to stay on active duty for several more days and they wanted to get home to see their loved ones. This is still happening today but at least they are given the knowledge that there are people out in their communities that will provide assistance for them. Like the old saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” Sometimes veterans are just like that or they think getting medical care or compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs is WELFARE.
I have spoken with Paul Curtice, the VFW State Service Officer, and he advised me about all of the information that he and the DAV Service Officer puts out during their presentations to our returning veterans. Here in Indiana, several months after the Guardsmen and Reservist’s have settled back to being at home, the Indiana Dept of Veterans Affairs along with the Dept of Veterans Affairs (both compensation and health care) conducts follow up training with units to continue keeping them informed about their benefits.
Personally, I feel the Department of Veterans Affairs; the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs and the Military Department of Indiana misdoing everything they can to make sure our troops are informed of their benefits and rights as veterans. It’s the veteran’s responsibility to follow up with their claims for compensation and health care. The only thing that bothers my fellow County Veterans Service Officer’s and myself is that when training sessions are scheduled in OUR communities, we are not invited to participate since we are not really apart of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Overall, the Transition Assistance Program provided to our troops is very good and all of us working together can make our veteran’s get readjusted back with their families and the community. Thank you for your time in listening to me.
God Bless America.
Gary M. Whitehead