"It's [important] to get the word out and to let a lot of the veterans know that the benefits are available to them, because so many of them go through life and never know ... when they got out of the service the only thing they were concerned about is getting out of the service and getting home," said Powell, whose office serves veterans in Bartow and Paulding counties.
At the local United Way's annual meeting March 8, Powell provided a snapshot of the DVS' services and urged those in attendance to share the information with veterans. Among the many statistics he provided, Powell revealed that in 2010 his office served 2,870 veterans, distributing $10 million to Bartow County.
"The problem we have with our agency is most people don't know about us and most people don't know about the benefits," Powell told the United Way supporters. "Most of the time the way we get new clients is somebody will go down to the Department of Driver Services to get their license renewed and the girl or the guy at the counter will say, 'Are you a veteran?' And they'll say, 'Yes.' And they say, 'If you go by the veterans office, you can get your driver's license for free.' So instead of paying the $20 or $30, they come over and see us and get their [driver's license] for free, and then we realize they're a Vietnam vet or Korean War vet. Then we ask them a couple of questions and find out they could have been drawing benefits from the VA for probably 20 or 30 years and they never knew about it.
"So then we fill out some forms and you might get a check for $120 a month, [if you are rated] at 10 percent. But ... there's several gentlemen in this county right now that you all would know if I mentioned their names [who] came in for a driver's license and now they're drawing over $3,000 a month from the VA -- tax free money. I wish everybody in Bartow County and the state of Georgia knew about the benefits and knew about us so that they could claim their compensation. ... So what I'm asking y'all is if y'all have employees, friends or families that you may think were in the military [please] just let them know that this service is available to them here in Bartow County."
To help veterans utilize the DVS' offerings, the "Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors" booklet is available online for free at http://www1.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book.asp. For $5, a hard copy can be purchased via mail at U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 979050, St. Louis, MO 63197-9000 or with credit card by calling 866-512-1800.
According to the Georgia Department of Veterans Service's website at www.sdvs.georgia.gov, the booklet "updates the rates for certain federal payments and outlines a variety of programs and benefits for American veterans. Most of the nation's 25 million veterans qualify for some VA benefits, which range from health care to burial in a national cemetery. In addition to health care and burial benefits, veterans may be eligible for programs providing home loan guaranties, educational assistance, training and vocational rehabilitation, income assistance pensions, life insurance and compensation for service-connected illnesses or disabilities. In some cases, survivors of veterans may also be entitled to benefits.
"The handbook describes programs for veterans with specific service experiences, such as prisoners of war or those concerned about environmental exposures in Vietnam or in the Gulf War, as well as special benefits for veterans with severe disabilities. In addition to describing benefits provided by VA, it provides an overview of programs and services for veterans provided by other federal agencies. It also includes resources to help veterans access their benefits, with a listing of phone numbers, websites and a directory of VA facilities throughout the country."
Local veterans are encouraged to speak with DVS representatives at the Cartersville office, 320 W. Cherokee Ave., Suite 105, on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 770-387-3746.