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Free resources help navigate benefits for veterans in Indianapolis

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Posted at 6:59 PM, Jun 06, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS — A record number of veterans have filed for benefits since the passing of the PACT Act.

The PACT Act expanded VA healthcare and benefits for millions of veterans.

As of June 6, 2024, 25,120 claims have been completed in Indiana, and 18,421 have been granted. On top of that, all World War II veterans became eligible for benefits in November.

"This year, I've talked to over 350," said Gordon Smith, a veteran service officer for Marion County.

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The Office of Veteran Services in Indianapolis helps provide these service officers for veterans. They help them navigate what benefits they're eligible for and how to navigate the application process.

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"It’s the federal government, so they make nothing easy. It's one of those things that it’s better to find a professional that deals with the every day as opposed to dealing with it for yourself," said Smith.

Smith says he sees a lot of veterans waiting years until after they've served to look into benefits.

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"It makes it very difficult for someone who has been a World War II veteran to come and file a claim today," said Smith. "The further away you get from the time you were in the military, the more difficult it becomes to file a claim and be able to receive something for that claim."

Smith says his advice is to file early and ask questions. There's benefits some veterans don't even know about.

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"There's state benefits, how about your kids going to school for free, tax deductions," said Smith.

WATCH | Groups work to connect veterans with services in Hamilton County

Groups work to connect veterans with services in Hamilton County

The VA here in Indiana has been working to reach as many veterans as possible since the passing of the PACT Act. Here's a look at their efforts:

For fiscal year 2024, the outreach program has conducted up to the month of May:

  • 8 major events: resource fairs in the community with assistance from Veterans Health, Veterans Benefits and other specialty clinics within the hospital.
  • 1,073 people engaged.
  • 125 toxic exposure screenings.
  • 90 new in person enrollments.
  • 33 new patient consults.
  • Attended 9 minor events: opportunities for booths or speaking to veterans and family members on benefits that may be afforded to them through exploring VA Healthcare and Benefits.
  • 45,912 people engaged.
  • 4 people enrolled.
  • 1,036 give away items handed out.
  • Conducted 3,382 phone calls to introduce or re-enroll veterans into VA healthcare.
  • 188 phone interactions resulting in continued care/enrollments
  • 3,085 mailers sent supporting information on enrolling in healthcare, filing disability claims and local VA resource fairs.
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They'll continue those efforts throughout the year with representatives at the state fair, Stand Down events and the Indiana Out of the Darkness walk.