LINDEN, NJ — A town hall meeting and claims clinic was held on Saturday for veterans and their families to help navigate the broad spectrum of veterans’ benefits and services that can often seem overwhelming.
Michael Blazis, director of the Newark Regional Office, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J., 10th District, conducted the meeting for veterans entitled, “Enhancing the Veteran Experience,” for eligible service members and their dependants. The event, held at the Reformed Church in Linden, gave attendees the opportunity to receive information about VA benefits and services, submit claims for benefits, and inquire about the status of pending claims.
About 50 people attended the clinic, where staff from the Department of Veteran Affairs, along with the East Orange VA Medical Center, were available to provide one-on-one assistance to veterans on all components of the process, including determining eligibility, claim submittal, status updates on pending claims, and information regarding VA health care. Also answered were inquiries about benefits for health, vocational rehabilitation and employment and education.
According to Payne, the process of applying for and receiving benefits can vary from case to case. “The length of the process varies depending on a number of factors, including accessibility to federal records,” Payne told LocalSource. “The VA aims to complete claims within roughly four months. The process is not difficult,” said Payne, who urges veterans and dependents ready to start the process to make sure they bring copies of the veteran’s DD Form 214, or Certificate of Separation from Active Duty.
Payne said that he is committed to ensuring that veterans get the funding they need. “We need to keep our commitment to our nation’s veterans who have sacrificed so much for us,” said Payne. “I’m proud to have helped secure $6 million in funding to help veterans and their families in northern New Jersey who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.”
The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs estimates that there are between 2,500 and 3,000 homeless veterans in the Garden State, with more than 67,000 homeless veterans across the U.S.
Payne said that he he has also called upon the VA to reduce its claim backlog.
Veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were in attendance.
Between 2009 and 2013, the VA had completed more than 4.1 million claims and awarded more than $58 billion in disability compensation to 4.3 million veterans and their dependants. In 2014, there were 3.7 million veterans enrolled in the Veterans Disability Program, up from 2.3 million over the last 12 years.