Most people have an idea of how much military veterans have contributed to this nation's freedom.
Veterans also are vital to its economy.
Consider this: Slightly more than 2,700 Lycoming County veterans receive some type of Veterans Administration benefits. They collectively received more than $15 million in monetary compensation during the 2008-09 fiscal year, money that helps support the local economy, according to county Veterans Affairs Coordinator Donald C. Cohick.
Veterans stand in recognition during an assembly honoring local military personnel at Montgomery Area Elementary School earlier this week. Veterans contributions goes beyond the committment to defend American freedom — they also are vital to the country’s economy through Veterans Administration benefits.
Monetary compensation pays for veteran health care benefits through the Veterans Administration health care system, financial compensation for illnesses or injuries suffered while a member of the Armed Forces, and pensions for veterans and their widows to help with nursing home and assisted living costs, Cohick said.
"That's going directly to the local economy," he said. "It is money coming to the veterans and they are spending it in the local community, whether it's for mortgages, entertainment or necessities such as food and clothing."
The Veterans Administration also spent more than $12 million in education and vocational rehabilitation for county veterans for a total of more than $27 million in expenditures, he said.
According to information provided by Cohick, total VA expenditures for other counties in the region include $15.7 million for Tioga County, $17.9 million for Bradford County, $8.7 million for Clinton County and $2.9 million for Sullivan County.
The county office, which is in Executive Plaza on Pine Street, is a one-stop shop for veterans' benefits, he said.
"Our main responsibility is helping veterans and their families get their benefits," Cohick said. "We really are the liaison between the veteran and the Veterans Administration. We represent the veteran."
The office also assists in acquiring replacement medals and service records, head stones and grave flags for veterans, Cohick said.
Veterans in Lycoming County who wish to discuss their benefits or file paperwork to receive them may contact Cohick's office at 327-2365.
"It's a complicated system to navigate. There are a lot of forms and a lot of paperwork," he said.
Business picking up
Lately, business has been brisk at Cohick's office - and at county VA offices statewide, Cohick said.
"The numbers don't lie," he said. "(New) claims are up across the state - hugely."
Cohick said the increase in activity in his office resulted in the hiring of George Heiges as assistant director. Heiges is a native of Montgomery who spent more than 20 years in the Air Force and another eight years in law enforcement.
"Statewide, the county (VA) directors are busier than ever and their offices are growing as a result," Cohick said.
Cohick said his office is part of a networking system that works to provide benefits for veterans and their spouses.
That network includes CareerLink, 145 W. Third St., Wilkes-Barre VA Health Center outpatient clinic, which is located on the third floor of the Werner building at Divine Providence Hospital, and the Vet Center at 49 E. Fourth St., Williamsport.
Services include counseling
The Vet Center "provides counseling for combat veterans and their families - any era," said center team leader Lori Raffensberger.
"We also do military sexual trauma counseling, bereavement counseling for families who lost a loved one during military service and act as a referral service if you have other needs," Raffensberger said.
Raffensberger said that while the outpatient clinic provides for veteran medical needs, the center focuses on mental health counseling.
Available services also include referral for benefits assistance, liaison with community agencies, marital and family counseling, substance abuse information and referral, referral for job counseling and VA educational benefits and referral for homeless veterans.
Raffensberger said veterans experiencing trauma due to combat or sexual assault or harassment need to know they are not alone.
"What I stress with people is that help is available. It is free confidential help," Raffensberger said. "They don't have to deal with this stuff on their own."
"Just give us a call or walk in. There is no referral process," she said.