Veterans will hold meeting Thursday
By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 27, 2013 1:46 PM
Wayne County Veterans Services Advisory Board members are hopeful that a "visioning" session scheduled for Thursday will help provide direction as to how the county can better serve its veterans.
Wayne Peedin, the North Carolina Veterans Affairs acting director, will speak at the event that will be held from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the Lane Tree Golf Club. Peedin is scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m.
The meeting is open to the public, but public comments will not be taken. Lunch will be provided for the invited participants, but not for the public. Wanda Sykes, faculty emeritus at N.C. State University, will be the facilitator.
The session will include representatives from the Health Department, Department of Social Services, WorkForce Development, Literacy Connections, the Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Committee, churches, veterans organizations and other agencies.
The agenda includes introduction of county staff, discussion of priorities, duties, gaps in services and the next steps for veterans.
"We are one of the very few counties in the state that is approaching this with an advisory board for veterans," said County Commissioner Bill Pate, the commissioners' representative on the board. "I may be wrong, but I think we may be one of four in the state. So this is a new animal."
Pate said that he had worked with veterans in communities near military bases during his entire career with the Employment Security Commission. The committee has to be careful because there are so many confidentiality issues that surround a veteran's benefits, he said.
"We have got to be very careful about counseling veterans. We are not trained veterans counselors. So we are kind of trying to determine, as I have said, how to navigate the ship to see where are we headed on this thing," Pate said.
Pate said he, County Manager Lee Smith, Peedin, and LaShaunne Moore, the Wayne County Veterans Services director, had met "to toss around ideas."
"Are we going to be just an outreach of the Veterans Services Office?" Pate said. "Are we going to be in a position where each (advisory board) person in each (county voting) district will be able to tell, 'Well, this is where you need to go to get this service,' if we get a call from a veteran?"
Pate said outreach and being able to access services for those veterans who have been out in the community for a period of time, as well as those who are beginning to transition out of the service, are both important.
"My idea (for the meeting) was to reach out to every organization, and a lot of them are county offices," he said. "People may come out and have needs through Social Services. They may find themselves, when they get out, to have limited dollars and may need food stamps. Where do you go? Who do you talk to?
"If you have transportation issues and you are in town, who do you go to? Well, we have GATEWAY. If you are having health issues, we are having someone from the Health Department coming. The Employment Security Commission will be represented as well. One of the biggest things a vet needs when he comes out of the service, he needs a job. If you get a job, then you probably don't need the other services. I hope we can find our path and determine what direction we are going in."
Pate said he hopes it will be the only facilitated meeting that will be needed. Ms. Sykes will be able to compile information from the meeting and provide recommendations, he said.
The advisory board will meet to look over those recommendations and try to figure out what is next, he said.
"I think there are a lot of veterans out there, and for one thing, they don't even know that they are veterans," Pate said. "They really don't. Some don't know there is possibly some benefits that they could receive."
Some think they are not veterans because they never served in a conflict, others think that because they only served for a brief time, he said.
Another issue of interest for the advisory board is the actual number of veterans in the county, Pate said. That is something the committee wants to determine, he said.
"I just think there is a silent group of vets that is sitting out there that doesn't have any idea of what is available to them," Pate said. "I just hope this leads to a better level of service for our veterans so that we can reach more veterans out there."