Veterans Crisis Command Center switches locations following low turnout in Arbutus

ARBUTUS, Md. - The paper shuffle has a pain level of its own for veterans coming to the American Legion Post in Arbutus, who are hoping for better healthcare.

"The medical stuff is fantastic. I need help with their bureaucracy," said Marine Corps veteran Justin Dodson.   

Dodson had surgery for a hernia in 2006 while in the Philippines. Back in the states, he's moved several times but the paper trail didn't follow him. 

"They regretted to tell me there's no way to do that.  I'd have to go to the one back in Seattle," said Dodson.        

Dodson gave up, but his wife pushed him to get into the Veterans Crisis Command Center and ask for benefits following five years of service. The American Legion brought together VA resources in Arbutus since Maryland has one of the longest wait times for veterans needing healthcare.

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Legion spokeswoman Verna Jones said the program was successful most recently in El Paso, where Texas vets have also struggled.

"Within the first three days with their claims, we have recovered $462,000 for 74 of those veterans who had come in," said Jones. 

The first two hours of the four-day event in Maryland were slow, bringing in just about a dozen veterans who wanted help. Ernest Colantonio wants disability benefits following an injury from Vietnam.

"You don't know what is going on, on their end.  Period.  You're totally in the dark," said Colantonio. 

The Navy veteran left feeling like his head is above water.

"I have a better knowledge of how they're handling the process now, so that I can submit the information in a timely manner for them to act on it," said Colantonio, who lives in Southern Maryland.  "When it comes to healthcare, I think they are trying to do a good job.  I think they are woefully understaffed," he said. 

The American Legion is now changing locations of the clinic, hoping more veterans find it more convenient.  The Crisis Command Center will be at the Loch Raven VA Outpatient Clinic Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. - noon.

 

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