AARP Eye Center
By Sarah Hollander
Many veterans in Ohio lose out on care that is available because of misconceptions and confusion. That’s what motivates Connie Duensing to get the word out.
“There are just so many benefits out there that people don’t know about or don’t know how to access,” said Duensing, outreach coordinator for the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System in Cleveland.
For instance, some veterans with private insurance don’t know they can use their military benefits to cover hearing aids, glasses and home adaptations that insurance might deny.
AARP Ohio hopes to shed light on these benefits at a Caring for Veterans and Their Caregivers information and resource fair on Saturday, Nov. 9, during National Veterans and Military Families Month.
The free event was planned with the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System and will be held at Cuyahoga Community College’s Corporate College East, in Warrensville Heights.
The fair is one of many AARP Ohio outreach efforts aimed at veterans, active military members and their families. Nearly 865,000 vets live in the state, and 13 percent have a service-related disability. Roughly three-quarters are 50-plus, and more than 370,000 are over 65.
Challenges facing Vietnam vets are on the rise, said Doug Tayek, associate state director for AARP Ohio.
“Caregiving for vets is unique,” Tayek said. “They have access to different resources and unique challenges, as do their caregivers.”
Scams target veterans
AARP Ohio will hold a free screening of the movie Midway and reception for Cincinnati-area veterans, military members and their families at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21, in Springdale, to spotlight ways to avoid fraud attempts aimed at vets. Go to aarp.org/cincinnati for information.
Some scammers offer to buy out a veteran’s future disability or pension payments for a lump sum that’s a fraction of its true value. Identity thieves claim to work for the VA and ask for personal information to update files. Others attempt to charge for access to free records.
Additional AARP efforts range from collecting thank-you notes for veterans, offering webinars to help them start and run a business, distributing military caregiving guides and securing discount memberships.
rge number of federal, state, county and private veterans groups can be confusing, Duensing said. A vet turned down by one organization may not know that another is available. One group may not help with utility shutoffs and food vouchers, but another may do so.
The Nov. 9 fair is an all-encompassing event to help veterans and caregivers navigate the whole system. Representatives from several departments within the VA as well as other veterans groups will participate.
“Veterans have made a tremendous sacrifice on behalf of the country, along with their families,” said Vietnam vet Randolph Baxter, 73, of Akron, AARP Ohio’s volunteer president and a retired federal judge. “That’s the least we can do on their behalf.”
For more on AARP’s efforts to help veterans, families and caregivers, go to aarp.org/veterans. For Ohio information, go to aarp.org/oh or call 866-389-5653.
Sarah Hollander is a writer living in Cleveland.
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