New veterans service officer ready to help

Published 10:15am Friday, December 27, 2013

Navigating the bureaucracy of the Department of Veterans Affairs can be challenging for the uninitiated, but having the help of a county veterans service officer can mean the difference in being left out or getting the benefits deserved by those serving in our armed forces.

Dwayne Gill is the new veterans service officer for Lincoln County. He was appointed to the position by the county board of supervisors after the unexpected death of retired Army Gen. Steven L. Melançon. Gill is a 21-year veteran of the Navy and served as a yeoman chief on submarines.

Gill said the veteran service officer is appointed by the board of supervisors and is put there to help.

“We serve as a liaison between the veterans in Lincoln County and the VA in Jackson,” Gill said. “Unfortunately, I do a lot of burial reimbursements and nursing home benefits. We serve our veterans mostly by guiding them through the paperwork needed to do things like get medical help, get their pension, help paying for nursing homes, burials, for housing – just a whole array of benefits that veterans can be eligible for, but the paperwork is always extensive.

“We will help fill out paperwork, help with appeals and guide vets through any pitfalls with their benefits, which usually means reapplying and more paperwork. We always find ways we can help them. Some people just give up but what I do is encourage them. It’s something that you have to be persistent with and keep trying.”

He said though the job is only part-time, it is a complex one.

“I’d only spoke to Steve a couple of times, so I didn’t know that much about it before going in – it’s a part time job, but there’s a lot to it and I’m learning.”

Gill said the Department of Veterans Affairs has put out a call for medical foster homes for veterans.

“We were at an annual training in Jackson in October and they were putting out the word that they needed people who could offer their home as an alternative to long-term medical care for our veterans,” Gill said.

He explained that foster homes will be inspected for safety.

“The VA has a medical professional come to your home and interview you,” he said, “and approve you to be a foster home,” he explained. “And participants will be reimbursed for all expenses. This is certainly no way to make money, but it is a way to pay back those who have served us.”

To arrange a meeting with Gill, call the Veterans Service Office at 601-835-3470. To learn more about the Medical Foster Home program visit the VA website at care, or call 1-800-949-1009, extension 5036 or 6213.


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