Long waits lead to good news for vets seeking resolution to VA problems
Posted 6:27 a.m. Thursday
Updated 7:26 p.m. Thursday
The American Legion and the VFW sponsored the Veterans' Experience Action Center to help veterans who are having trouble with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Because North Carolina is the only state hosting such events, veterans came from across the country.
"Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina this morning," said Army veteran Marc Stratton, who flew to the Triangle from Arizona. "I got more done today in less than an hour than I've done in years."
Veterans started lining up for the event Wednesday night, and the line wrapped around the building by the time the doors opened at 9 a.m.
"The word got out, and the need is there," said Richard Spyrison, the service officer for the American Legion post in Cary. "The biggest thing is that the veteran can tell that [volunteer] his story, his problem, why he needs this."
Army veteran Robert Jones of Greenville stood in line for hours to erase years of VA paperwork problems.
"They made a mistake, and they acknowledged that themselves and corrected it and took a lot of pressure off," Jones said. "Today was a very good day. I thank God for the folks here."
Struggling with PTSD, Marine veteran Dustin Glidewell of Carthage finally got the disability he'd been fighting for.
"I got 100 percent today," Glidewell said. "That means my kids get fed. I mean, it means I have a home now."
Not every veteran got what they wanted, but they got answers and personal attention.
"Today's been amazing. They spent three hours with me, and it's been ultimately validating," said Evangeline Moore, a homeless Navy veteran who drove from Washington, D.C., in search of education assistance.
"It feels like I just dropped my rucksack for the last time. I can breathe again," Glidewell said.
The Veterans' Experience Action Center continues 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Veterans are advised to bring their medical records with them.
About 500 veterans were served in a similar event last year, and organizers said they hope to double that by the end of Saturday.
"This is needed, and we're going to try and increase this format," North Carolina Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs Larry Hall said. "We do it several times across the state already, and we have these kinds of turnouts. The second thing is we have to have better follow up and make sure they get into the system."