Wood County Veterans Assistance Center

Wood County focuses on serving its 12,895 veterans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the nation prepares to honor those who served on Saturday, the Wood County Veterans Assistance Center is working to serve the 12,895 veterans living in this county. Mary Hanna, a Vietnam War veteran and executive director of the county office, presented a program this week on veterans in Wood County. Though few in the room were veterans themselves, the majority were descendants of those who served. “Presentations like this are like preaching to the choir,” Hanna said. Over the years, the county has seen the age of its veterans shift. The current stats show the following numbers in each age group: 2,321 ages 17 to 44 3,901 ages 45 to 64 4,903 ages 65 to 84 1,770 ages 85 and older. The biggest share are Vietnam veterans (33 percent), followed by peacetime (23 percent), Persian Gulf (22 percent), World War II (12 percent) and Korean War (10 percent). Women veterans in Wood County total 850, accounting for 7 percent of the veterans overall. The number of veterans to die last year in the county was 111. Meanwhile, the number of new veterans registering here was 1,146. It’s that disparity that worries Hanna, since the federal government is eyeing cuts to the Veterans Administration’s budget. The federal stats put Wood County’s veteran population at 8,100 – but Hanna has proven that the number is actually 12,895. “We’re gaining veterans in this county,” and she wants to be able to give them the service they deserve, Hanna said. Last year, the Veterans Assistance Center had contact with 14,424 veterans, and several of their dependents. “Our services don’t only address the veterans, we have services for their dependents,” Hanna said. Nearly a quarter of the dependents are from WWII veterans. “Most of those WWII veterans now are in nursing homes or other care.” One of the main services offered by the county office is transportation to VA medical facilities for veterans with no other options. Last year, 310 transports were provided. “We pick them up at their door and take them to their appointment, then return them back home,” Hanna said. The office also provides emergency financial assistance. Last year, that financial help added up to $71,728. The biggest need was food (43 percent) followed by rent and mortgage assistance (25 percent), then such items as electric bills, burial expenses and car insurance. “Every county operates differently,” Hanna said. “We rarely turn a veteran away who is in need if they can substantiate the need. If they can show the need, we help them.” The office also makes sure veterans get the federal benefits that are coming to them. “This is what I really love to do – making sure veterans get everything they are entitled to is my passion,” she said. In 2016, the veterans assistance office helped secure $33.6 million in federal dollars for local veterans. “I know that money is going to the veterans who deserve it,” Hanna said. The office also helps make sure local veterans get their pensions, medical aid and education services. Approximately 1,200 veterans in Wood County receive disability pay. And the office provides funding for grave flags and markers, plus honor detail services at burials. The veterans office has made some changes in recent years to…


Helping local vets who came home with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As many as 25 percent of the U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan returned home with traumatic brain injuries. Thirty percent came back with post traumatic stress disorder. In Wood County, it’s estimated that 60 veterans are now living with the effects of TBI or PTSD. Many of the traumatic brain injuries were caused by IEDs (improvised explosive devices) frequently used in recent wars. So when Mary Hanna, executive director of the Wood County Veterans Assistance Center, got a call offering her office a $10,000 grant to help treat those problems, she jumped at the chance. “It was very humbling. We will be the first county office to receive funds to do this,” Hanna said. The need is great, she said. “TBI and PTSD dramatically impacts their ability to get through daily functions,” at school, on the job, and with their families. Hanna contacted the Speech and Hearing Clinic at Bowling Green State University, and a partnership was formed to use the grant to help local veterans. “I’m getting ready to notify each veteran about these services,” which will be offered at no cost, Hanna said of the 12,895 veterans living in Wood County. The grant came from Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, founder of the Resurrecting Lives Foundation, who has made it her mission to get better care for veterans returning home with the often invisible injuries of TBI and PTSD. In many cases, veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan went right from school to war, Gordon said. They never had to navigate in society before – and now some are faced with doing that with a TBI or PTSD. Services to treat such injuries by veterans organizations are still lagging, she said. “It’s not well diagnosed and treated in the civilian world. It’s like the new global epidemic,” she said. “It’s only in the last decade that we can see well inside the brain.” Some Vietnam veterans are just now realizing that they have been living with PTSD. “I don’t want that to happen with this generation,” Gordon said. “If you have a brain that has difficulty navigating,” normal challenges can seem impossible, she said. So Gordon decided she wanted to “bring brain treatment to them.” The services at the BGSU Speech and Hearing Clinic can help veterans with TBI and PTSD with the following issues: Memory issues. Understanding speech, especially in noisy or complicated situations. Reading comprehension, especially for complex materials. Problem solving, decision-making, planning and organization. Social communication challenges. The $10,000 grant is intended to help up to 20 veterans with 15 one-hour treatment sessions, with the option to continue. Each vet will get a comprehensive evaluation of speech-language-cognitive functioning which will be used to create a treatment plan individualized for specific needs and personal goals. Complete hearing evaluations will also be available. Hanna stressed that these services won’t interview with regular VA services. “These are in addition to the services they are receiving as a VA patient,” she said. Though the services will be offered on the BGSU campus, they will be open to any veterans, Gordon said. “This is not just for students. It will give veterans a safe place to get treatment where it’s confidential,” she said. The conditions created by TBI can be…