Houston & Peach

Macon Vet Center provides mobile help to veterans

PERRY -- Jerry Long has the ideal job for someone who likes to travel and help veterans, which he does.

Long regularly roams a 78-county area in a modified RV that serves as the mobile extension of the Macon Vet Center. Long, an Army veteran himself who served in Iraq, aims to answer any questions that veterans may have about benefits and how to get help from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

On Thursday, he was at a Wal-Mart in Eatonton, where he saw about 15 vets, and on Friday he was at the VA clinic in Perry, where about 25 veterans stopped by.

Several of them said they were primarily interested in finding out how to get benefits. Most had not enrolled in the VA health care system.

One of those was Frank Adkins, 75, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He has diabetes and was trying to find out how to apply for VA health care services.

His wife, Chris, said Long explained to them that they needed to round up some paperwork, particularly his medical records from when he served.

“We found out we have to have his medical records before we can do anything,” she said.

Long said the mobile service is needed, even where there is a clinic such as the one in Perry, because the clinics are focused on providing care, not necessarily distributing information about how to apply for benefits.

Although he didn’t on Friday, he also sometimes has a counselor with him who can provide on-the-spot counseling for such things as post traumatic stress disorder or military sexual assault.

Ty Sturgeon, 72, served in the Navy on a submarine during Vietnam. He had never applied for VA benefits, so he was just starting the process.

“It’s a good idea,” he said of the mobile service.

Long said he has no set schedule for the mobile center. On some days, if he is not busy, he may decide to drive out to some location in Macon on the spur of the moment and set up for a few hours.

The area he covers ranges all the way across the middle of the state, from Augusta and Savannah to Columbus.

His next scheduled stop in Middle Georgia is June 15 at Warner Robins City Hall from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sometimes people may seek information that doesn’t necessarily fall under the VAs’ scope, such as finding employment. Long said even with questions like that, he can usually at least guide people to someone who can help.

“I love doing this,” he said. “The main thing that gives me joy out of this is helping veterans out. I’m a veteran myself, so I know some of the things they go through and can relate to the issues.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.