A district staffer in the congressman's office said, on average, veterans contacting our office for assistance have been waiting for 1-2 years.
National statistics show more than 30 percent of America's homeless are vets, and a third of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury or a combination of the two. The Veterans Administration office faces a backlog of 1.2 million claims.
But there is some hope for local veterans, their families and those still in active service. The East Bay Veterans Fair is holding VetCon, a one-stop shop for vets, on July 15. The event will bring in a team from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help vets access health care, disability compensation and readjustment counseling, and to offer help filing claims.
VetCon will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Concord Hilton, 1970 Diamond Blvd. It will also offer job search help from employment agencies for veterans to improve their resumes, tie their military experience to civilian employment, and assist vets with interviewing skills.
Representatives from the University of California, California State University, and California community colleges will also be on hand to offer educational counseling, financial aid assistance, and help in completing applications for veterans that are considering attending college.
Professionals will offer help to those readjusting to civilian life ranging from Zen meditation and prayer groups to yoga, tai chi, and massage therapy.
The Red Cross will hold a blood drive in honor of service members, and Blue Star Moms will collect items for care packages to be sent to troops overseas. Blue Star Moms of Contra Costa County will also greet participants and direct them to services, and free child care during the event will be provided by the East County Veterans organization.
Beyond that, VetCon will feature opportunities to connect with fellow veterans who have used their experience in the military or their post-military transition to develop a skill, career or hobby. Among them will be Vietnam vet Bob Whitworth, author of "Through My Eyes: a Story of Hope."
"I want to help veterans understand that there is help for them to readjust to civilian life," Whitworth said. "VetCon is the place to make connections and find some answers."
About 400 veterans attended the last event in 2011, and Contra Costa Veterans Service Officer Nathan Johnson says more are expected this year.
"We're excited to see VetCon grow, and to have veterans reaching out to other veterans to share their experiences," Johnson said. "Having a wide range of examples of successful transitions can only help those who are still trying to navigate life back home."
No pre-registration for VetCon is required, but access to counselors and health care workers from the VA and County Veterans Service Office will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Veterans who want help with benefits counseling should bring a copy of their discharged documentation (DD-214) if possible.
Those interested in being a vendor or volunteering at VetCon should contact Maurice Delmer at 680-4526 or Maurice.Delmer@va.gov.