Poconos veterans groups provide assistance to those who served

The Stroudsmoor Country Inn was packed on the evening of November 4, with former servicemen and women dressed in a range of three-piece suits and dresses and weather-worn leather jackets, all to honor veterans and raise funds for their care. and support.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary, VetStock — a 501c3 nonprofit organization that “empowers, enriches, and improves the lives of our veterans and their families by assisting the efforts of those veteran organizations that support and provide services — fulfilled the rooms at Stroudsmoor, with everyone from old pals to new acquaintances enjoying some well-deserved frivolity while providing vital aid to veterans.

VetStock president Thomas Ryan, who served in Vietnam, said the motivation for the nonprofit came from his own personal experience and that of others who returned from Vietnam, to find very little help – “we weren’t treated right, we weren’t treated fairly, we weren’t treated very well, so our position and our solemn vow was not to allow that to happen again. “

“And we take that seriously, and part of that mission is to fundraise and fund organizations like Folds of Honor or Veterans Moving Forward, and organizations like this where we can make a difference in people’s lives. ‘a veteran; homes for our troops where we can contribute money to build homes for veterans where we can make a difference in a veteran’s life and make that life better,’ said Ryan .

With a sold-out house thrilled to hear retired keynote speakers Master Chief Navy SEAL Steve Drum and author and Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, and plenty of entries in a raffle package and plenty of silent auctions, it seems that the most support for the cause has come from within — veterans helping veterans.

Veterans’ need for help — to address mental and physical health issues, housing, reacclimating to civilian life and more — is clearly a monumental mission.

A report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information noted that veterans suffer from mental health disorders, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury at disproportionate rates compared to civilians – approximately 41% of veterans will be faced with these or other problems.

The US Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development points out that “three and nine months after leaving the military, 53% of participants reported having chronic physical health problems.” Loss of limb or mobility, cancer, chronic sleep problems and other problems are commonly reported.

And public and military perception of the VA is less than ideal—a 2021 Pew Research Center article said the VA “receives a relatively low favor mark compared to other government agencies,” ranked third in ten agencies.

Sergeant Major Baylis, founder and CEO of the VALOR Clinic Foundation – an organization that helps veterans access benefits, the homeless or those struggling with health issues – faces the pitfalls of getting much-needed help for former soldiers for years.

Paul's House, run by the Valor Clinic, in Kunkletown.  Valor runs many programs, including Veterans Unstoppable, to help veterans struggling with mental health issues, a major factor in suicidal behavior among those who served in the military.

According to Baylis, navigating the path to military assistance and benefits through the VA can be daunting, sometimes to the point that the veteran seeks help and gives up hope, which can cause further problems. .

“I just got one out of the institution where a lot of them are frustrated they won’t even go to the VA because of it, and there are others like that, and it’s becoming the heart of a lot of issues,” Baylis said. “I think it increases the frustration of all of this no matter where I go. I think it contributes to the homelessness problem, I think it contributes to the suicide problem. I think similar things are happening in the social relationships outside the service with spouses and other family members.”

Baylis noted that the difference between the lives of soldiers and civilians could be a major factor in this problem, pointing out that soldiers are trained to be self-sufficient and ready to assume any position if necessary. In contrast, in the civilian world, many moving parts, manipulated by many people, are integral to the process of getting help.

“The Veterans Benefit Administration looks at your injuries for service connection and determines if there’s a disability rating, which determines your levels of access to health care, yada yada yada, like there’s all this ripple “, Baylis said. Once a veteran clears that path and starts getting treatment, outside of being a bit slower in the appointment process, it’s not that bad, Baylis said.

But getting through the VBA bureaucracy can be the biggest challenge. Suffering from a broken back, as well as shoulder and neck injuries, Baylis left the service in April 2007. The process to get her benefits lasted until 2009.

This can be complicated by many factors, including a veteran’s VA disability rating, which ranges from one to ten, with one being the most severe.

“The long and short is the truth changes drastically with your, with your number, and because mine wasn’t resolved yet, they were charging me my earnings from when I was still there,” Baylins said. “And I was a senior guy, I was a senior guy in the military. And they were losing that income which completely disappeared.

Veterans also struggle to complete paperwork and provide required information at times, and when they experience setbacks, that can be enough to make them give up.

While the process has improved — Baylis noted it works much better if a soldier starts working on the paperwork before leaving — “it’s still a lot slower than people would like.”

Baylis cited the example of a man he is currently helping who recently sat for an exam to determine his eligibility. The veteran had little understanding of the process, and when dealing with a doctor who was, in effect, a claims arbitrator — “he’s really kind of like the guy who comes and looks through your car when you’re in a car accident to see what it will cost to repair,” Baylis said — he made a crucial mistake in describing his injuries, failing to participate in a functional loss test for his shoulder.

“So the guy is pretty tight, and he’s got nothing. He’s got more health issues from his military service (than most), and he’s not getting any help from the VA,” Baylis said.

That’s where groups like VALOR and VetStock come in, helping veterans who are struggling with this process. Ryan and Baylis are ready to lend a hand to anyone who is about to leave, knowing full well the difficulties they will face.

Ask most veterans and they’ll agree that these organizations are essential for obtaining benefits and other forms of assistance. These veterans have been there and done it, going through a complex process and providing access to health care and housing for a new generation heading down the same path.

“They have to rely on them, they need them. That’s not even a question. And they should contact them before they go out, not after, do all their paperwork while they’re still there,” said Baylis.

While background checks and other bureaucratic hurdles can be up the course — even Baylis can understand their importance in making sure everything is above board — they can be the very difference between caring for those who have served or let them suffer.

With the help of VALOR, Vetstock, and other veteran-led, vet-focused programs, more veterans than ever may be able to get the help they need and deserve. . Veterans, along with civilian support, get the six of each and aim to make it a reality.

“From all of us at VetStock, we want to thank you all for your support,” reads a program from the VetStock event. “Together we have made and will continue to make a difference in the lives of veterans through your generosity and commitment.”

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