Hendricks County Veterans Service Office Helps Veterans Receive Their Benefits
Writer: Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer: Darren Boston
The Hendricks County Veterans Service Office is, unfortunately, one of the best-kept secrets in the county. Though Hendricks County has 31,000 veterans, last year only 4,000 of them utilized the office.
“Most of the time veterans learn about us through word of mouth — from their buddy at the American Legion or from someone at a nursing home or assisted living facility,” says Jennifer Navara, assistant Veteran Services Officer. “We’d like to see all of our veterans get what they need.”
In a nutshell, Navara and her colleague Lori Turpin, Veterans Service Officer, help veterans receive the benefits they deserve by assisting them with claims for disability or pension, helping them get their health care, and making sure they receive Indiana State benefits as well as Federal benefits. Turpin and Navara often see elderly veterans who need help with their pension and costs associated with in-home nursing care. Though it’s a free service, nefarious lawyers sometimes prey on elderly veterans, taking advantage of their trust and charging them to help with their pensions, then draining their resources.
“That’s illegal and when we learn that’s been done, we report it,” says Navara, who has found that many veterans don’t know that they are able to file a claim for medical issues that happened while in service. The top claim Navara sees is hearing loss and ringing in the ears because hearing protection wasn’t very good decades ago.
“A lot of soldiers were on the flight line or were on a ship and they slept under the racks of the weapon gear,” Navara says. “The first question I ask older vets is, ‘How’s your hearing?’”
DIC (Dependency Indemnity Comp) is a payment made by the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) to the spouse of a member who dies due to a service-connected illness or injury. Navara cites the example Agent Orange, which was a powerful mixture of chemical defoliants used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War that caused major health problems for many who were exposed to it.
“Many veterans have experienced health issues and not realized it’s something associated with Agent Orange,” Navara says. “So, if they pass away from a lung cancer that was associated with Agent Orange, we’re able to go back and get the spouse the help that they should have had before the husband passed in the first place.”
Surviving spouses of veterans may also be eligible for certain benefits, particularly if they are frail.
“Spouses don’t always realize there are benefits for them once their spouse has passed away outside of the burial allowances we have,” Navara says. “It can be a struggle for elderly women when their husband passes away because they lose that income. This is an opportunity to put a little more money in their pocket. If they move into assisted living, it helps cover some of that cost, too.”
The Hendricks County Veterans Service Office, open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, is located at 355 S. Washington Street, Suite 216 in Danville. Veterans may call the office and schedule an appointment with Turpin or Navara to go over their service information. For more info, call 317-745-9239.