Giving vets a helping hand

7/11/2014

By KELTON BROOKS

By KELTON BROOKS

kbrooks@gctelegram.com

A veteran, clogged down in constant medical bills, was among those seeking assistance from the Kansas Commission of Veteran Affairs Wednesday for a steadily increasing problem.

Dale Clews served in the U.S. Army in 1959 in Germany, and was discharged in 1962. He and his wife Shirley, married 49 years and both retired, say that within the past two months alone, they have had close to $500 in medical bills.

"We're trying to get medical bills down," Dale said. "That's what I need."

A friend who is a veteran had told the Clews he had received some help with medical bills by speaking with a representative of the Kansas Commission of Veteran's Affairs.

The representative, J.C. Stewart, relayed several options for the Clews Wednesday, speaking to them for about two hours in the conference room of the Finney County Administration Building.

Stewart had previously stopped in Garden City at the Finney County Public Library, 605 E. Walnut St., on July 2. He'll be back again from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the library in Garden City.

The commission representative plans to be at the library on the first and third Wednesday of every month, and will try for a third visit every month on the second Wednesday in the conference room of the Finney County Administration Building.

Stewart is scheduling visits throughout the state to help veterans or surviving dependents with any assistance they need, whether it be with veteran affairs forms, compensation claims, pension claims, or other available help if they are low income.

Stewart said if it wasn't for the KCVA, veterans would have to travel to Fort Dodge, Topeka, Leavenworth or Wichita to receive any sort of help.

Veterans in nursing homes can schedule an appointment to discuss programs available to them, and Stewart will come to them.

"We're trying to get to many different communities as possible," he said. "Seeing a lot of people get the help that they need is very gratifying, to know that you're able to help someone."

Shirley said they plan to visit with Stewart again when he returns to Garden City on Wednesday to finalize documents, and added that they appreciate Stewart coming to town.

The Veterans Affairs office in Garden City permanently closed in early June. The office, previously located at 116 E. Chestnut St., Suite 105, is no longer available in Garden City for area veterans who require health care.

If a Garden City veteran wishes to receive help, they would have to contact or travel to the KCVA office in Fort Dodge if they need assistance between the scheduled visit dates.

Veterans in Finney County or Garden City may also contact Stewart to set up a visit if he's traveling to other cities such as Liberal or Meade. Stewart does not know how long the itinerant schedule will continue in Garden City, but he will inform the public of any future changes.

"We're an organization that wants to help them," he said. "We create a bond that forms an alliance and make vets comfortable. "We know people are annoyed or paranoid about VA and their issues, but we want to be able to solve their problems."

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