Photo by Frank Prager
Tim Brown of the village of Bethalto is a veteran and initiated the monthly Bethalto veterans outreach event.
BETHALTO — Military veterans often have access to resources and assistance they are either unaware of or don’t know how to access.
The Veterans’ Assistance Commission is focused on helping veterans find and utilize these resources and is establishing outreach programs to make the process of getting help easier. As part of that program, a new event is under way monthly at Bethalto Village Hall.
The commission provides needed services exclusively to honorably discharged military veterans and their families who reside in Madison County. The monthly outreach event will make representatives available who can answer questions and help veterans get started on getting assistance.
Commission Superintendent Brad Lavite explains the challenges in identifying those in need.
“Today’s veterans no longer necessarily congregate at places like the VFW and American Legion like those from previous eras did,” he says. “Finding veterans and communicating what is available to them is more difficult than it was before.”
Commission officials want the outreach programs to raise awareness of programs available to veterans and their families and to identify times and places to get information on them.
Tim Brown is the building and zoning administrator as well as fire chief for Bethalto. A veteran of the Army and Operation Iraqi Freedom, he contacted the commission and initiated the Bethalto outreach program when he saw a need for it in the community. He said people mainly need help identifying resources and applying for them.
“Veterans as well as widows and other family members may simply not be aware that assistance is available for them and these outreach sessions can make it easy for them to get information,” he said.
He also points out that veterans are from multiple generations.
“Some of the older veterans are not tech-savvy and applying for assistance often requires submitting applications on a computer,” he said.
Resources available to veterans include financial assistance, food and family essentials, burial expenses, disability care expenses and housing referrals. The organization also assists with administrative casework and advocacy-related services. The commission can assist with regard to all benefit-related filings.
Lavite is also a 21-year Army veteran, an Iraq war veteran and a military reserve member. He understands the challenges veterans face trying to get benefits.
“Understanding the terminology itself is huge,” he says.
Additionally, he points out that post-traumatic stress disorder is a major issue for veterans.
“Veterans need to pay particular attention to it because it can show up years after their service,” he said. “It can often be masked through drug or alcohol abuse.”
The outreach events at Village Hall will be held monthly. Anyone wanting information on the schedule and times for them can contact either Tim Brown or the commission. Brown’s office number is (618) 377-7697. His email is email@example.com. The commission can be reached at (618) 296-4454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.