Some vets too proud to ask for help

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Marion County is home to a whopping 45,000 United States military veterans; each with their own unique stories of trials and triumphs.

So why are their benefits identical? Well, they’re not!

According to Steve Jacobs, a veterans services officer with the county, lack of communication is one of the reasons veterans don’t receive all the benefits they earned.

“They compare themselves to each other,” said Jacobs. “And the fact is, benefits can vary based on every aspect of your service.”

Jacobs explained deployments, occupations and even duty stations can tilt the scale that determines veterans’ benefits

Spouses and widowed spouses make up another large chunk of people who tend to miss out on service-related entitlements.

Marion County Veterans Services department bridges the gap between these residents and the organizations that aid them. Their team is comprised of several fulltime staff members and dozens of volunteers who serve an average of 50 people a day.

“We provide a wide variety of services,” said Jeffrey Askew, veterans services director. “Sometimes we can help with disability compensation and income based pensions. There are also widow’s pensions and other benefits that people don’t necessarily know are available.”

Askew’s team regularly assists residents with Veterans Affairs health care registration. Once registered, local vets have access to Marion’s three VA clinics. Alternatively, they may seek health care at the VA hospital in Gainesville.

If you’re friends with a veteran and made it this far into the article, here’s one for you!

Vets, their families and even their friends may benefit from VA eyeglass clinics, which provide eyeglass prescriptions at significantly reduced prices.

Whatever your needs, this team of trained professionals is here to help.

“I really enjoy what I do, because we make a difference here,” said Daisy Diaz, veterans services supervisor with the county. “When we find out what they qualify for and help change their quality of life; that’s the biggest joy of mine.”

Working with nonprofits and volunteers from the community allows this department to connect veterans with resources outside of the government.

Veterans Services also has on-site chaplains who consult veterans seeking mental health resources.

“Many veterans are too proud to ask for help,” said Askew, a retired sailor. “Or they are afraid it may hinder their careers. But the help is there and can be very effective. They just have to reach out, so we can connect them with mental health professionals.”

The first step is the hardest; let your friends at Veterans Services do the rest. Give us a call at 352-671-8422 to explore your benefits.