Kerri Cooke Thursday, December 4, 2014 0

After Veteran’s Day comes and goes, it’s easy to forget about American veterans and their year-round struggles as we get caught up in our own lives.

Americans celebrate Veterans Day nationally once a year. Living vets get one special day, while we spend every day of the year enjoying the freedom and protection they have provided and continue to provide to us.

Veterans deserve our thanks, respect, and help. They have sacrificed time at home, their health and personal plans. Many are weighed down under the financial burdens placed on them by disabilities or the inability to find a good job after their retirement from their years spent defending the United States.

The local Disabled American Veterans, or D.A.V., office needs us to remember our veterans in more ways than one. The D.A.V. office provides vital assistance to disabled veterans. If not for the advice and help of D.A.V. representatives, many disabled veterans would not get the benefits and support they need because of lack of understanding of paperwork, procedures, and exactly what help they’re entitled to. DAV-Logo

It’s easy for any veteran to become confused when dealing with complicated paperwork, and it’s even easier for aging vets to misunderstand. Many veterans can’t make heads or tails of the forms they must complete to receive what they’re entitled to as a result of their service.

In the event that their claim is denied, the process gets even more complicated when veterans have to send in appeals. It’s enough to make some of them get so frustrated that they want to give up.

This is an area where the D.A.V. office can help tremendously. Disabled veterans can show up at the office, located on 5516 Highway 90 East, Lake Charles, at 7 pm on the first Thursday of every month to get free, professional help in applying for benefits or filing claims.

In addition to providing important aid in filing disability claims, the D.A.V. office hosts annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for veterans in lieu of their normal meetings. Vets can come eat and have fellowship with others in similar circumstances. Members from other chapters around the area are also invited.

Unfortunately, the local D.A.V. office is currently falling into disrepair. So while veterans may get help there now, they may not be able to continue to do so for long if some issues relating to the office building aren’t fixed swiftly.

The problem started some years ago when the roof of the office was damaged by Hurricane Rita in September, 2005. An insurance claim was filed; the money was received; and the roof repaired.

However, the carpenter who had the responsibility of fixing the roof did a shoddy job, as the roof trusses were improperly made. After the initial roof repair, small leaks began, and over time became a bigger and bigger problem.

Now things have gotten out of control, and the roof of the building is close to falling in. Every time it rains, there’s more and more significant damage inside the building.

The D.A.V. office is now trying to push through another insurance claim. They’re in the beginning of the process, and are trying to figure out what to do to fix the problem with the help of the Rebuilding Together—Calcasieu project and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office. Matt Vezinot, special services division commander for the CPSO, is working on the rebuilding project.

D.A.V. staff are unsure as to whether they should tear the current roof down and try to salvage what’s left of the damaged areas of the building or to just demolish the front of the building and put a metal pole barn in its place.

The D.A.V. staff wants not only to repair the building, but also to create three or four private offices in the space. Currently, the veterans all come to get help on the same day at the same time. There’s no opportunity for privacy. The meeting area consists of one big room, where veterans tell the representatives of their problems, which are sometimes very personal, while they’re sitting in a room full of people. Veterans often come with their spouses; they want privacy when they’re discussing the intimate details of their lives. It is embarrassing for them to face the possibility of being overheard.

A veteran’s disability is something that’s not pleasant to talk about. The veteran may have a hard time talking about his or her problems to the representative, much less have other people overhear them as they pour their hearts out.

The funding for the repairs or replacement of the damaged areas of the building is being held up by the sort of legal procedures that slow veterans down and keep them from getting their benefits. Nothing can move forward until the finances are in place, and it’s not clear when they will be.

D.A.V. staff feel that something has to be done and soon. Our local disabled veterans need to have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and Christmas. They need the gift of a functioning and efficient building. The men and women who fight for our country are not being appropriately treated if they feel they are subject to a degrading environment. It’s upsetting to some of them when all they have is a building with no privacy and a roof that’s falling in.

Veterans deserve a safe and comfortable building where they can have their needs addressed; meet in privacy; receive the respect they deserve and enjoy the company of other vets.

Everyone in Southwest Louisiana can and should make a difference in a veteran’s life, whether it be by volunteering to help repair the D.A.V. office, offering funds to help rebuild the roof and create offices, or simply being there for a veteran to talk to when they need someone. These veterans have been wounded on the job for us. They have given us help, and we should thank them with our help. Remember them in your prayers and thoughts this Thanksgiving as we think about all that we are blessed with.

Rebuilding Together — Calcasieu 

Rebuilding Together—Calcasieu is an organization that focuses on repairing or rebuilding houses that are no longer safe and secure. The organization tells the story of one woman who hadn’t been able to cook in her kitchen for seven years because the floor wouldn’t hold her up. When the rebuilding was complete, she did a couple of celebratory dance steps on her new kitchen floor.

Rebuilding Together-Calcasieu is a non-profit organization. The group relies entirely on donations and grants to do its work.

Because of its strict non-profit status, Rebuilding Together-Calcasieu also relies on volunteers who are willing to undertake the many different tasks involved with repair and rebuilding.

The group uses as a motto the verse Acts 20:35, in which Paul stated, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus himself, who said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

If you’d like to donate to the D.A.V. project, you can send your contribution to Rebuilding Together—Calcasieu at P.O. Box 3758, Lake Charles, 70602 and earmark it for the D.A.V. project. Or call 478-1755. Note that you can pay for contributions to the group with PayPal. And you can follow Rebuilding Together-Calcasieu on Facebook. For more information, visit