EL PASO, Texas —
But the VA shouldn’t view getting veterans access to benefits and doctors as out of the ordinary, says Verna Jones, director of the American Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division.
“This is not extra, this is what is supposed to be happening,” she said.
On the first day the Legion’s crisis center team arrives in a town, they typically hold a town-hall meeting, where they take questions from veterans — sometimes, the head of the local VA is there to answer as well. In the days following, veterans come to the Legion post and talk to counselors, who assess the best way to tackle a given problem, be it benefits, retroactive payment, scheduling a doctor’s appointment or enrolling a veteran in the VA’s system for the first time.
During the center’s three days in El Paso, 74 veterans were told they are eligible to more than $461,000 in retroactive payments for uncollected benefits, American Legion Post 58 commander Joe Ontiveros said.
King divorced her husband, who was also in the military, after years of abuse and moved back to El Paso in 2012. She got by until January, when she learned her ex-husband wanted to take their son for the summer.
“I started having nightmares, started feeling depressed,” she said. A counselor at the VA dismissed her claims, saying a depressed person would not be well-dressed and with a nice hairdo.
“I told her I didn’t want to look how I’d been looking,” King said. The counselor said that in order to prescribe medication, King would have to be evaluated by a doctor.
“She said they would schedule an appointment, but I was never called back,” she said. “I’ve been calling and calling but nothing.”
After talking with the American Legion representatives at the El Paso crisis center, King will get help — an appointment with a psychologist that had yet to be scheduled as of Friday. “I believe this will be helpful,” she said.