Johnston County

Benefits center for veterans scheduled in Smithfield

Veterans looking to learn about their benefits will have a one-stop destination this week near Smithfield.

Local, state and federal veterans’ groups have come together to host a Veterans Benefit Action Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday at the Johnston County Agricultural Center, 2736 N.C. 210, Smithfield.

It’s a rare chance to discuss and apply for benefits with representatives from every level of veterans’ services, said Robert Boyette Jr., Johnston County’s veterans’ service officer.

“We’re encouraging all our veterans to come out because I can’t say when we’ll do it again on this scale,” Boyette said. “It might be five or 10 years from now.”

Organizers expect vets to come from all across the region, and they want to avoid having too many people show up on one day. To spread out the crowds, attendees are asked to come in groups based on the last two digits of their Social Security numbers. Those with numbers ending in 00 to 33 should plan to come Wednesday, 34 to 67 on Thursday and 68 to 99 on Friday.

Veterans with scheduling conflicts may show up on another day and still receive help, Boyette said, but they might face a long wait. At a similar event in June in Jacksonville, he said, about 800 people came out over the course of three days. Organizers expect a strong turnout in Johnston County, he said, given the county’s proximity to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Fort Bragg and the populous Triangle.

“If we can break it up and get a portion (to come) each day, it will go a lot smoother and faster,” Boyette said. “If 800 people show up on Wednesday, then some people may get turned away.”

Those encouraged to attend include veterans who:

▪  Have current Veterans Affairs claims.

▪  Would like to file a new claim or appeal a denied claim.

▪  Have issues with VA health care.

▪  Would like to apply for entrance to the VA health care system.

▪  Just have general questions about VA benefits.

On hand to assist veterans will be representatives from both state and federal veterans’ agencies, along with lawyers who advocate for veterans on legal issues. Boyette will be there too, as will his counterparts from Wilson, Wayne, Harnett and Sampson counties.

Other groups include the American Legion of North Carolina, American Red Cross, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Marine Corps League, Vietnam Veterans of America and the Harnett County Veterans Treatment Court.

U.S. Rep. David Rouzer plans to give opening remarks each day, Boyette said, and he will set up a satellite office at the event.

The event will include music and concessions. Also on hand will be representatives of community agencies that do not focus exclusively on veterans – such as state workforce development and small-business coordinators.

Veterans Benefit Action Center

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Organizers ask veterans to attend based on the last two-digits of their Social Security numbers. Numbers 00-33 should come Wednesday, 34-67 on Thursday and 68-99 on Friday.

Where: The Johnston County Agricultural Center, 2736 N.C. 210, Smithfield

More Info: Contact Cajun Comeau, American Legion director of veterans’ services, at cajun.comeau@va.gov, 336-631-5471 or 919-616-6793.

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