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Veterans share concerns over access to benefits at Harrisburg roundtable

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Nov 3, 2017 6:57 PM
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Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) speaks with veterans at HACC. (Photo: Rachel McDevitt/WITF)

(Harrisburg) -- Military members transitioning to civilian life have access to a number of educational and medical benefits to help them adjust. But some veterans are concerned a lack of education discourages their peers from pursuing such opportunities.

Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey held a roundtable with veterans at Harrisburg Area Community College Friday to learn how to help.

Richard Pinegar of Lebanon County is just starting on his associate's degree at HACC after four years in the Marine Corps and a stint working in the Lebanon VA.

He told Senator Casey his transition is going well, thanks to support from his family.

But not all his friends have been as lucky. He said he lost a couple to suicide.

"They weren't educated in any of the facts of the benefits they had. Just from serving, they could walk into any clinic in the VA and get help," Pinegar said.

Pinegar said he wants the Defense Department and the VA to do a better job of informing vets what they have access to after they leave the service.

He said the process of applying for benefits is so daunting, some of his friends don't even want to try to go through it.

"You apply, and then you get a letter 30 days later saying, 'ok we received your claim.'And then it could be two months, it could be two years until you get an appointment," Pinegar said.

Other veterans on hand shared stories of feeling rushed or overwhelmed by courses meant to help familiarize them with their benefits.

Casey said preparation for civilian life needs to be more robust, but didn't give any indication as to what he could do to ensure that happens.

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