The Sussex County Advisory Committee on Aging & Adults with Physical Disabilities held a presentation on veteran services in Sussex County on March 21.
Laurie Corsa, a veterans’ service officer for the Delaware Commission on Veterans Affairs who presented to those in attendance said the number of veterans in Sussex County have now surpassed that of Kent County.
Corsa said she helps with a variety of services, including filing service-connected claims for veterans, claims for widows of veterans, and get individuals enrolled in the healthcare system.
She added that the community-based outpatient clinic, CBOC in Georgetown would be expanding next year and offering more services including a hearing and eye clinic, as well as X-ray services.
“The VA does provide transportation up to Wilmington Monday through Thursday. The bus leaves at 7:30 in the morning. The only thing is, you have to have an appointment up in Wilmington to get on the bus that day,” she said. “It’s an all day affair.”
Corsa said she realizes 90 miles away is a haul, especially for a disabled veteran, and hopes the new facility will help.
“I will do everything I can no matter what your questions or concerns are. I do not have a problem calling my director and I do not have a problem calling a United States Senator’s office. As far as I’m concerned, they work for me.”
“Why aren’t all veterans in Sussex County given the Choice Program,” asked Patrick J. Moonan, a Vietnam veteran who received a Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal for his service. “I consider traveling 100 miles one way burdensome.”
Corsa said the Choice Program was the VA’s response to what was happening in Phoenix, Ariz. when veterans were being placed on a waiting list to be seen by a VA doctor.
“And they were dying while waiting on the list,” she said. “So they came up with this Choice program. The bad thing about the Choice Program is, everything has to be pre-approved prior to you going to an outpatient doctor.”
Moonan said he has been in the VA system since 1969, and little has been done for veterans, stating Sen. Tom Carper “not cosponsored one veterans bill.”
Corsa encouraged everyone to contact their elected officials to advocate for more veterans’ services.
“My problem with Delaware is, our Vice President [Joe Biden] is from Delaware. We should not be having these problems,” she added.
“I want to know what the people in this room have done for the veterans in Sussex County,” said Moonan. “Nothing…. It’s disgusting, it’s dishonest, it’s repulsive what’s being done to the veterans in Sussex County.”
Walter Kooppman, a Korean War veteran, said he volunteered to serve in the military three days out of high school at the age of 17.
“If you’re not a veteran… It’s hard for somebody who’s not had this experience to understand our feelings and our thinking about our fellow veteran, “he said. “We all had a job to do no matter what branch of the service we were in — whether you were home duty or combat.”
Koopman said Corsa does great work for people, and “gets the job done.”
Corsa said many veterans prior to the Gulf War are unaware of the benefits offered through the VA.
“I was in the Army and we weren’t told squat,” she said. “We’re trying to change that attitude as far as the benefits the veterans and their families are entitled to.”
Things such as schooling, housing, life insurance and more is eligible to veterans. Corsa encouraged veterans to visit her office to find out what programs and services they are eligible to receive.
Veterans weren’t the only persons in attendance at the meeting. Barbie McDaniel. Physician Representative at Delaware Hospice, Inc. spoke to the group stating Hospice has a program called Sharing My Story.
“A lot of veterans don’t share their story with their family because they don’t want to burden them with what they’ve struggled through,” she said. “But at the end of life we find that they want to share that story. We can put on a video or a CD what their story is and a lot of them are leaving that behind as their legacy.”
Anthony DelFranco of CHEER was also in attendance, said the organization is focusing more of their activities to veterans because they are becoming a large part of the Sussex County population.
Linda Forte of Easter Seals said as the wife of a Vietnam veteran, veterans’ services is an issue close to her heart.
“Whatever we can do at Easter Seals, we would love to help you.”