A new Cape May County grass-roots organization geared towards helping veterans hosted its first informational event Thursday. The creators say the group is going to help veterans get the services they deserve.
Tom Collins risked his life defending our country during the Vietnam War but when he returned home he says no one could be bothered to return the favor and help him find a stable lifestyle.
"When we tried to get something done it was like you didn't exist, like you were a piece of dirt." Years later Collins says things are different but are still not perfect.
Those are the issues that a new grass-roots organization in Cape May County is hoping to change.
"We are not reinventing the wheel, we are just making it a little bit easier,” said Carol Cohen, Exec. Dir., Red Cross Southern Shore Chapter.
The Red Cross Southern Shore Chapter teamed up with Chapter 44 of the Disabled American Veterans about eight months ago and created "CVAC" known as The Citizens Veterans Advisory Committee.
According to a representative from the DAV the three major issues veterans are facing in Cape May County is a lack of jobs, homelessness, and a lack of healthcare benefits.
"That’s where the homelessness comes in. These guys came home and they couldn't afford a mortgage. They can't afford bills or payments. Next thing we know they are on the streets,” said Commander of the DAV Chapter 44, Johnnie Walker.
Vets were provided with free check ups and flu shots during the event when they visited the on-site mobile clinic, but the mobile clinic isn't nearly enough to help vets who need more than just a basic check up. That's why this new organization wants to provide easier transportation to area hospitals.
"Veterans that are in need of critical care, not emergency care but chronic care are required to go to Wilmington Delaware or Philadelphia,” said Cohen.
As of right now the VA only has one van available for transporting patients out of state.
"Part of what we are trying to do is get Cape Regional and AtlantiCare to open their doors and work with the VA so we can take them here locally instead of this transportation issue we are having,” said Walker. "They served for us and now it's our time to serve for them"
Another informational session will be held this coming spring. "CVAC" also hopes to acquire a second van to help transport patients out of the state when funding becomes available.
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