Cary, NC – This weekend, veterans and their family members will come to Downtown Cary to meet face-to-face and talk with agents from Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss what benefits they are owed, in North Carolina’s largest Veterans Experience Action Center.
Cary’s Veterans Experience Action Center takes place from Thursday, September 12 to Saturday, September 14, 2019, with varying times each day, all at the Herbert C. Young Community Center. With most benefits, a veteran or their family member will fill out a strict form online to apply, but Richard Spyrison with Cary’s American Legion Post 67 said this face-to-face interaction adds an important element.
“There’s so much more to their story that the VA agent doesn’t know from reading a form,” Spyrison said. “The veteran can tell their story, what happened, what they’ve been through – all those little things that are not on a computer.”
Over the three days, Spyrison said they will likely get around 1,500 people coming, and while the seating in the Community Center keeps people from waiting in line outside, he said there are often already lines starting outside before they open the doors in the morning.
“We’ll have a 100 people inside by 11 AM and they keep on coming throughout the day,” Spyrison said. “No one is turned away.”
Last year’s Action Center was canceled due to Hurricane Florence, but as a result, Spyrison said this year’s process has been easier.
“Everything is already in place,” he said. “The businesses helping out, the community involvement and volunteers, they’re already on board.”
Cary’s Veterans Experience Action Center is the largest in North Carolina (earlier this year, there were also centers in Greensboro and Winston-Salem) and Spyrison said it has even drawn in veterans from outside the state.
“In 2017, the first four people in line were from Arizona. The fifth was a homeless veteran from D.C.,” he said. “We contact veteran service organizations and it spreads from there. There are lots of veteran groups online, as well as support groups.”
Spyrison said is spreads far from word-of-mouth as well, telling the story of one veteran several states away who attended after his postal worker, also a veteran, told him about it.
As such a large program, this year, officials from the Veterans Experience Office will be attending and observing the event to learn more about it.
“It is growing,” he said. “It needs to go nationwide and it’s already starting to catch on.”
But even with the Veterans Experience Office attending, and with visits from Cary Town Council and North Carolina Department of Military & Veterans Affairs Secretary Larry Hall, Spyrison said this will not take away from the focus of the center’s work.
“There are no speeches or fanfare. There’s no opening ceremony – this is strictly for the benefit claims,” he said. “We have veteran advocates for [Senator Thom Tillis and Representative David Price] there, but we keep politics out of it.”
Veterans Benefit Action Center
Herbert C. Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave.
Thursday, Sept. 12 to Saturday, Sept. 15, 2019
Thr: 9 AM to 3 PM || Fri: 8 AM to 3 PM || Sat: 8 AM to 2 PM
Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of American Legion Post 67.