Return The Favor: Mobile veterans outreach program

Return The Favor

At the Pennsylvania Farm Show, you’ll find all sorts of animals, food and farm vehicles, but there’s a different kind of vehicle that’s just as important, especially for veterans and their families.

Chip Gilliland is the chief of reintegration and outreach for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“The main thing that we do is provide information and point them in the right direction,” he said, “answer their questions about federal VA benefits, state VA benefits. We just put them at ease over the questions they ask, point them in the right direction and get them going with whatever information they’re going to need.”

Gilliland is referring to the mobile veterans outreach van. Pennsylvania’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has two of them. The goal is to get the word out about services for our vets. The most asked about is health care benefits – questions like who’s eligible and how to get enrolled.

The program dates back to 2014 as a way for the department to get out of the big cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and travel to other parts of the state to serve more people. You’ll see the van at all sorts of events like county fairs, job expos, and other public gatherings. During the winter months, there’s no bigger gathering than the Farm Show.

“We typically do an event and may get 30 or 40 veterans,” Gilliland said, “but the Farm Show is a big draw, so we try to capitalize on it.”

This year, they’ve seen about 75 veterans each day during Farm Show week. Those involved with the program say the key is getting out of the office and interacting with veterans. So far, it’s been a big success.

For more information, visit Mobile Veterans Outreach Vans.

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