State Rep. James Beverly is a Macon optometrist with a degree from Harvard, but even he scratches his head when he tries to decipher some of the forms for veterans benefits.
If you look at just the form they have to fill out in order to get health care benefits, it would drive you insane, he said.
Thats part of what gave him the idea last year to have a stand down day for Middle Georgia veterans. About 300 veterans attended, and Friday the event is being held again.
About 40 organizations will be on hand to give veterans a wide range of help, including assistance with benefit applications. There will also be free food, free clothing, health screenings, employment assistance, credit counseling and more.
The event will be held 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9709 at 711 Key St. in Macon. The Macon Transit Authority is giving veterans free rides to the location.
Ronnie Miley, an organizer of the event, said after hearing about it last year, many organizations in the community asked to be a part of it this year. With a growing number of female veterans, he said addressing their needs is a focus of the event this year.
Volunteer Macon is the umbrella organization coordinating the event, he said, and the aim is to not just help veterans for a day and forget about them. Part of the events goal is to find veterans who are in need and follow up with them throughout the year.
We do not want to let veterans just walk through and we not see them again, he said.
Veterans are asked to bring discharge papers, a VA card or some other proof of their service, but they can come even if they dont have that. Beverly said last year they learned that some veterans, especially those who are homeless, dont have documentation of their service. Volunteers have been working to help them get it.
But if veterans come Friday and dont have proof, other veterans will be on hand to question them. Beverly said with a few questions they can determine whether someone actually served.
Miley said another reason the event is useful is that veterans often dont feel comfortable going to a clinic or VA hospital for help. He said it gives them a relaxed atmosphere to learn about help that is available.
About 100 volunteers have signed up for the event, including active-duty military personnel from Robins Air Force Base and the Georgia Army National Guards 48th Brigade.
Anyone in need of more information can call Volunteer Macon at 742-6677. A Facebook page with information can be found by typing 2013 Macon Stand Down into the Facebook search bar.
Beverly said he has been impressed with the outpouring of support for the event.
Its almost overwhelming, he said. People gave way more than what we expected. You hear so much bad stuff about Macon, but when you see something like this, you see that there are some great people in Macon.