WATERLOO — One veteran is evicted and needs help. Another comes to pick up food assistance. A veteran’s spouse is homeless. The phone keeps ringing as other veterans call for help.
That’s what happened in just one half hour recently at the Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Commission office.
And there are still more people to hear from, commission executive director Kevin Dill believes.
“I still think there are still 3,000 or 4,000 veterans in our county who have not been in our office. I’d like to have them come in,” he said. The office is tucked back in a corner on the ground floor of the Pinecrest county office building at 1407 Independence Ave., which some longtime residents will remember as the former St. Francis Hospital.
It does have a big sign. Veterans do find it. Dill wishes more would.
Dill, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, tells stories of veterans with serious illness saddled with medical bills and need help. One gentleman faced serious expenses for medications and his wife had to quit work to care for him.
“I said, ‘Don’t give up; there’s always a solution,’” Dill said. He found help for the man with his medicine. “He started to cry on the phone. Heck, that got me crying. But I wonder how many more out there are like that. The VA’s so far back in their mind and they don’t think about it.”
Others have tried to get help unsuccessfully. “I would hope those who had an unfavorable result would come back again. It’s a new office. We’re doing a lot more.
“In the last two years we tried to think about how much revenue we’ve generated that is coming into the county” for veterans, Dill said. “I think it was at least $14 million in revenue. That’s money that goes right into the veterans’ pockets and they use that to purchase things in the city.”
The office provides a variety of assistance.
“We help with wheelchair ramps,” Dill said. “... We help veterans with health care, housing, employment, food, clothing. We help fix their cell phones. Help them find car insurance. We do everything. We’re counselors, social workers. The other day I helped a vet get fixed up with marriage counseling who was suffering from PTSD.”
He sees 15 or 20 veterans a day, “a couple hundred phone calls” and emails. The office also has started an annual Adopt a Family program for needy veterans’ families.
The age of those served ranges from 23 to 90. Dill sees 100 Vietnam veterans a month, 25 to 30 post-9/11 veterans, 25 to 30 Gulf War veterans, 20 to 25 Korean War veterans and 20 to 25 World War II veterans.
He meets with federal lawmakers promoting veterans issues and fixing mishandled claims for Veterans Administration medical assistance. Dill is also trying to reach younger veterans.
Those interested may call the office at 291-2512 or visit his office at the Pinecrest building.