Veterans line up to get advice at DAV van

Published 2:40 pm Friday, October 2, 2009

Veterans lined up at the Disabled American Veterans van on Thursday at Wal-Mart to ask questions about disability issues and inquire about benefits they might be eligible to receive from the Veterans Administration.

The van is called a Mobile Service Office.

The van opened for business at 10 a.m. and in one hour had two pages of signatures of veterans waiting to see, or who had already seen, veterans service officers in the van. The van remained open until 4 p.m.

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The two officials who were from the national DAV and who were interviewing and fielding veterans’ questions were Charles S. Pugh, a national service officer, and Gary Gray, a supervisor. They were interviewing veterans in the van while other veterans waited their turn outside.

Said William Dyess, a member of the Pearl River County DAV Chapter 47, who acted as a receptionist for the two DAV officers, “We are trying to help out any way we can. We try our best to stay busy helping veterans. We already have two pages of veterans who have signed in with questions and issues, and that is a good start.”

The van only gets by Picayune about once a year, but Dyess said any veterans who are having trouble with their benefits or wanting to see about what benefits they might be eligible for can call him at 601-889-9846.

“If we don’t have the answer, we will get in touch with someone who does,” he said.

Dyess, a former Marine who himself is disabled, said, “Everything we do is pointed toward helping veterans. We get donations, but every penny we get goes back into our organization and goes directly to serving and helping veterans. All of our workers are volunteers.”

The local chapter has 97 members and meets monthly. “We don’t even have a building; we work out of our homes, so all the money can go to veterans who need help,” he said. “Right now we are holding our monthly meetings at the home of one of our officers. We used to meet at Shoney’s.”

Pugh said the van goes out twice a year in Mississippi, in the Fall in South Mississippi and in the Spring in the north. “Monday we were in Meridian, Tuesday in Laurel, Wednesday in Ocean Springs and today in Picayune. Tomorrow we will be in Foxworth,” he said. “Then, at various times of the year we go to Harley-Davidson dealerships and do the same thing.”

He said that in the meantime anyone who has a problem or issue with the VA can contact a local member of the local chapter and the information needed will be sent to them, or they will be contacted by a DAV official as soon as the information is obtained.

Pugh said you don’t have to be a member of the DAV in order to get their services. “Any veteran can use us free of charge and all are treated the same,” he said.

“National service officers are rigorously and professionally trained about the full range of benefits that the VA offers veterans and disabled veterans and retirees, and we offer the best counseling and claim filing assistance you can find anywhere,” he said.

Pugh said any veteran seeking information can not only get help by calling the local chapter but can also call Gray at 601-364-7178.