The first military veteran who stopped at the mobile clinic in a parking lot off New Bern Avenue Thursday hadn’t had any contact with the federal Veterans Affairs department in 20 years.
But with one visit, he was connected to an array of benefits he’s eligible for, many of which have changed since he first left the military.
That’s the kind of spontaneous interaction The Vet Center’s mobile clinic program intends to encourage.
“We’re helping out veterans who may not seek services until they see us,” said Moses Gloria, a Raleigh Vet Center n outreach coordinator who helped staff the mobile clinic last week.
The Vet Center, a program of the VA, operates 70 mobile clinics in the U.S., and has 300 permanent locations. North Carolina has two mobile clinics and six permanent locations.
The clinics have a counselor available to talk with veterans, multiple rooms that can be closed off for privacy and access to VA databases and records.
“Anything I can do in the office, on the administrative side or the counseling side, I can do here,” said Daniele Brooks, a counselor at the Greenville Vet Center?.
Last week, the mobile clinic set up in the parking lot of Carlie C’s grocery store on New Bern Avenue.
Friends of New Bern Avenue, a neighborhood advocacy group, approached Carlie C’s about arranging the visit, and the store’s staff was eager to participate.
“Having them come here was pretty much a no-brainer,” said assistant manager Jason Kierstead.
The mobile clinic also travels to fairs, churches, local businesses, clubs and more.
“We come out for events, big or small, as long as we’re educating the public,” Gloria said.
Vet Center services
The Vet Center program is distinct from other divisions of the VA that administers financial benefits or health care.
The mission is to be a community-based resource for veterans and their families. The clinics typically are staffed by veterans and others with close relationships to military members.
The centers work with combat veterans and their families seeking readjustment counseling services, veterans who were the victims of sexual harassment or trauma while in the military and grieving family members of vets who died in service.
But they also can refer veterans to other services, including GI Bill benefits and health care.
“We are an entry point to link them to the people they need to talk to,” Gloria said.
The Raleigh Vet Center at 1649 Old Louisburg Road can be reached at 919-856-4616.