Navigating the waters of veteran benefits can be confusing for many individuals, but for the staff at the Veterans Center of North Texas, it’s all just in a day’s work. For four years, the founders, Paul Hendricks, Dave Schafer and Pete Young, along with dedicated volunteers, have been helping veterans and their families in Collin, Grayson, Cooke, Fannin, Hunt and Rockwall Counties get the benefits they are entitled to and the services they need.
There are an estimated 58,000 veterans just in Collin County and 386,000 in the DFW area. The Center serves as an information referral center, and over the years, the men have talked to and vetted service providers accumulating a data base of over 150 partners including veteran and community organizations, local, county and state agencies, and Texas 2-1-1 information referral system.
As veterans themselves, all three men have experience earned through their respective twenty-year military careers, two Air Force and one Army, and lengthy careers in the private sector. Prior to launching the Veterans Center in 2014, the men visited other veteran agencies and the Bush Institute to find what was needed. They learned that two thirds of most veterans don’t know where to go to get services. “We knew there was help out there for veterans,” Young said. “We were thinking mainly of the Afghani and Iraqi veterans – and we know what they’re going to do – they’re going to get on the internet and look for a federal website – VA help. It didn’t exist. Texas had a website, but it wasn’t really efficient at the time.”
They make sure they don’t duplicate other organizations’ efforts, and if veterans cannot come to their office in Plano, they often travel to Sherman to help those in the area. County employees are in place to facilitate the official benefits request, then Center volunteers try to help people with anything they can, including helping with claims for the VA. “We would like to make every veteran aware of what’s available,” Hendricks said. “We try and counsel people what their responsibilities are when they take government funds.”
By Sonia Duggan • Associate Publisher • [email protected]
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