Veterans Day is upon us, and we should take time on this day to honor and celebrate those who served this country.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11th as Armistice Day to commemorate the first anniversary of the end of World War I, which ended on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution officially making the day an annual observance. It wasn’t until 1938 that the day became a national holiday. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in order to honor veterans in all wars.
Although Veterans Day is an important reminder to honor those who have served and engaged in conflict, we should utilize it as a supplemental way to honor our veterans each and every day of the year.
So, how best do we honor our veterans? Is it parades and events? Is it plaques and awards? Is it a medal? Well, those are nice, but we can do so much more. The best way that we can truly honor our veterans is by ensuring that their needs and the needs of their families are taken care of to the best of our ability. And, that is the core mission of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance.
The Department works to connect veterans with services and benefits that they may not know they have. We do not want our veterans to leave any benefits on the table, so we do our best to explain every option available. We’ve been pretty successful over the years. In 2007, the Department brought in around $900 million worth of benefits to veterans living in West Virginia. In 2018, that amount reached $2 billion.
Veterans Day reminds us of the importance of benefits we bring to our Veterans.
What are some of those benefits veterans have? We connect our veterans to both federal and state benefits. These benefits include, but aren’t limited to, disability compensation, non-service connected disability pensions, VA survivors pensions, Montgomery and post-911 GI Bills, vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits, as well as dependency and indemnity compensation, Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Veterans Affairs and even burial benefits.
At the state level, these benefits include tax waivers, employment, veteran license plates, hunting and fishing licenses and financial assistance.
We have 150,000 veterans living in the Mountain State. They have served in peacetime and in war. Veterans living in this state have served in World War II and every conflict thereafter. They come from all age groups and generations of war.
In order to assist veterans across our state, our Department maintains 16 benefits offices where staff meet with veterans to address their needs. These offices are located throughout the State. The services at these offices are offered at no charge to the veteran.
To help address homelessness, the Department operates the WV Veterans Home in Barboursville. This 150-bed facility is a comfortable home for veterans in their time of need. It is considered one of the finest facilities for homeless veterans in the country, and we take great pride in it.
These are just a few of the ways the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance serves the heroes that have sacrificed for our country. I am a veteran myself, and I speak from experience when I say that, oftentimes, we need help accessing our benefits or addressing other issues.
The best way to honor our veterans is to appreciate them at all times, not just Veterans Day. There are many opportunities to volunteer your time to help veterans. If this message reaches you, I encourage you to give us a call and we will connect you with those opportunities. For more information, visit: www.veterans.wv.gov
Dennis Davis is cabinet secretary for the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance. This column shared by the West Virginia Press Association to its members.