The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs is expanding its Veteran Volunteer Program statewide, including Columbia County, and is now recruiting volunteers interested in working with aging veterans to help them access needed benefits and resources.
The goal of this program is to equip volunteers with information so they can help educate and connect veterans — primarily, seniors in care home facilities — to their earned benefits and other potential resources.
The program was piloted in Clackamas, Polk and Deschutes counties. A phased rollout is planned that will be staggered over the next two to three years.
“This program is about mobilizing the power of volunteers to help Oregon veterans understand and gain access to their earned benefits,” Veteran Volunteer Coordinator Mark Newell said. “I hear from a lot of people who want to thank our veterans in a tangible way, and this is one way volunteers can have a lasting, positive impact on a veteran’s life.”
Emil Graziani,a Vietnam veteran and a program volunteer, said he has encountered many fellow veterans who are unaware of their earned benefits or don’t feel entitled to them.
“I share my own experience of staying away from the VA for decades,” Graziani said. “Volunteering with this program allows me to help them find services that may be really beneficial to them or have a positive financial impact. I also feel like volunteering in this program gives me something back, too. Spending time with these veterans really lifts me up.”
Volunteers work closely with the Veteran Volunteer Coordinator and accredited Veteran Service Officers in each county, locating veterans in long-term care facilities who may need assistance accessing their benefits.
“Veterans over the age of 65 now represent over half of the state’s veteran population,” Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs Director Kelly Fitzpatrick said. “They are an important part of our Oregon veteran community, and effective outreach is critical to ensuring they have access to all the benefits and resources they need and are entitled to.”
The program is open to anyone 18 years or older. If you enjoy working with the aging population and want to make a difference in the lives of veterans, you are encouraged to apply.
The first training for interested volunteers will be held on Jan. 20 for those in the Columbia, Multnomah, Washington, and Yamhill county areas. There is no cost for the training but registration is required.
To register, or for more information about volunteer opportunities in your area, please visit oregonvetvolunteer.com or contact Veteran Volunteer Coordinator Mark Newell at 503-373-2057 or email@example.com.