New Opportunities for Veterans and GI Counseling
By Ray Parrish
The GI's, veterans and their families in your area need help and you don't need me to do it. There are new resources that will allow you to do veterans peer counseling, VA disability claims and help GI's understand their rights and how to get the best discharge possible. It's even possible for you to make a living doing these. And, of course, VVAW's counseling service is still just a phone call away and anyone can call for assistance. I'm talking about a new book, a new web-based manual and a new therapy training.
The Veterans and Families Survival Guide is downloadable from vfa.org, the website of Veterans For America (formerly the VVA Foundation). It's got over 200 pages written by a couple of dozen experts that discuss every relevant subject in a helpful manner. With this in your computer you'll be able to answer 95% of the questions and make yourself a reliable resource for your community. However, to take on VA disability claims (as a non-lawyer, independent agent who could get 20% of retro benefits) I still recommend the NVLSP's Veterans Benefits Manual (order thru Lexis-Nexis at 800-533-1637). It's worth the $245 for the 4000 pages and cd-rom because you get the VA's clinicians' guide and adjudication manual. In 1999 the appeals I wrote got vets $500,000 in retro benefits.
My new manual for GI counseling is Rules of Disengagement - The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent by the President of the National Lawyers Guild, Marjorie Cohen and the chair of NLG's Military Law Task Force, Kathleen Gilberd. (Polipoint Press; 415-339-4100 - p3books.com) It goes far beyond "Helping Out's" focus on discharges and gets into the nitty-gritty of helping GI's and their families who are dealing with racism, rape, issues of conscience, disabilities and the legality of today's wars. The girightshotline.org website has links to the regs on discharges and a new phone number 877-447-4487.
I went thru a week-long Veterans Peer Counselor training developed by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. (Coordinated by vet-netchicago.org at 800-826-3632, ext. 159) Both the VA and community mental health service agencies, thru HUD-VA Supportive Housing grants, are trying to provide returning vets more appropriate and extensive counseling. The training had vets from all eras as well as family members and service providers. Its consistent emphasis on helping veterans to help each other was a challenge for an old caseworker like me who is used to working with those who are so severely disabled they need help finding answers.
So, get a local contact from the IVAW or GI Rights Hotline website and reach out to them with an offer to help. Get your local library to buy a copy of the Veterans Benefits Manual and ask them to host regular VA claims and discharge upgrade clinics. Get your local VA get on the peer-counseling bandwagon. Get into the HUD-VASH program and buy an apartment building to house vets and a counselor.
JUST DO IT!
Ray Parrish (Sgt., USAF, 72-75) is VVAW's military counselor.
If you need help, call him at 773-561-8829 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.