***Note: Due to Hurricane Florence, this event has been postponed. We will update this article when the new date has been announced.***
Cary, NC – This September, Downtown Cary’s community center will open up to military veterans and their family members to meet face to face with Veterans Administration officials and share their stories to help sort out their benefits.
Getting to Talk Face-to-Face
From Thursday, September 13 to Saturday, September 15, 2018, the Herbert C. Young Community Center in Downtown Cary will host the Veterans Experience Action Center, hosted by the American Legion and Wake County Veterans Office. Richard Spyrison with Cary’s American Legion Post 67 said what makes this program unique is people can talk with a VA official face-to-face about their veterans benefits.
“It’s the story that the veterans has about his or her injury, family case, PTSD, what they went through. It’s the info that doesn’t show up online and it really makes the difference,” Spyrison said.
These benefits can include education, disability, and burial benefits as well as benefits for widows and caregivers.
“There are so many things a veteran or veteran’s family can be entitled to that they may not know about,” Spyrison said. “We’ve had claims approved on the spot in past years.”
While some states will hold benefits seminars, North Carolina is currently the only state that holds these face-to-face meetings with VA officials, Spyrison said. The Veterans Experience Action Center has been going on for a little more than five years now and there were two earlier programs this year in Wilmington and Dunn. With the Cary one lasting three days, it still brings in veterans and families from around the region and country.
“Last year, the first in line was from Washington, DC. The second was from Arizona. We draw people from up and down the East Coast,” Spyrison said. “The mayor said this is helping us get Cary on the map.”
Growing Program with a Big Need
Last year, 1,063 veterans came to Cary’s Veterans Experience Action Center, not counting veterans family members. Spyrison said they reached out to the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Larry Hall came to all three days of the Action Center last year, which got Spyrison choked up just mentioning.
“It’s not so much the recognition we get or the town gets, it’s the focus on the veterans in the short period of time we have to help them,” he said. “And all that money they receive is tax-free and goes into the community.”
The center is open on Thursday from 9 AM to 3 PM; on Friday from 8 AM to 3 PM; and on Saturday from 8 AM to 2 PM.
North Carolina has a large veteran and active duty military population thanks to the bases here, with around 70,000 veterans in Wake County alone. So Spyrison and others expect a large turn-out but he said they will see as many people as they can.
“If someone comes in at 2:59 PM on Friday, they will get seen,” he said.
Veterans Benefit Action Center
Herbert C. Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave.
Thursday, Sept. 13 to Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018
Thr: 9 AM to 3 PM || Fri: 8 AM to 3 PM || Sat: 8 AM to 2 PM
Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of American Legion Post 67.