Hundreds of military vets seek help with benefits in Wilmington

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Several organizations are rallying to rescue veterans caught in a tangle of red tape.

They gathered in Wilmington Thursday to help streamline the process for vets who struggle submitting medical forms and other documents.

Instead of waiting for hours online or playing phone tag with the VA for days, vets seeking assistance with claims, medical problems and other benefits are given the opportunity to meet in person with volunteers from the VA.

Three years in a row, hundreds of veterans and their families traveled from near and far to the Elks Lodge to meet face to face with VA volunteers to handle official business that needs to be sorted out.

Veterans Event Action Center Chairman Tom Cerniglia explains that the VA isn’t always easily accessible, which is why this event is so vital.

“We have partnered with the Veterans Department Affairs and we have 22 volunteers from them down here,” Cerniglia said. “They’re actually raiders. They’re capable of making adjustments to either their claims or possibly awarding benefits that have been denied for all practical purposes.”

Kwame Abaymio and his wife Elaine trekked over 400 miles from Baltimore, just for this event. They say the six and a half hour drive was worth every minute.

“We were able to talk one on one to a VA representative,” Elaine said.

“I’m appreciative of my first experience coming to North Carolina and again finding out how well this area of the VA system is organized and making the connection for veterans to get access to resources,” Kwame explained.

Cerniglia says that there’s a million things that veterans and their families will take away from this event, but the most important one is a smile.

“It’s all encompassing, that smile tells the whole story,” Cerniglia added.

Cerniglia and his team dedicated nine months to planning this event. The event continues Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m at the Elks Lodge on Oleander Drive.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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