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Veterans' benefits continue being processed long after pop-up events end

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Posted at 5:40 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 21:36:51-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Where tables, chairs, food and veterans previously had filled the empty lot at 311 S. Staples St., only a few hours later, empty, large tents were all that stood.

U.S. Navy veteran Andrew Perales came to Operation Stand Down for the camaraderie, but the 53-year-old also picked up information about education assistance, which will help him with his recent decision to finish college.

“Anywhere I can get a few extra dollars, I'm gonna do it,” he said.

Vietnam War veteran George Ortiz showed up to get information about housing. He’d like to own his own home one day.

"I really need a small home because it's just me and my dog,” he said.

Dozens of veterans lined up for food, legal help and educational and medical benefits. They even got haircuts. All for free.

While the event, which is in its sixth year, primarily is aimed at helping homeless veterans, Operation Stand Down has brought agencies such as the VA and local businesses together to give veterans in need a “hand up, not a hand out.”

Military outprocessing and the transition to civilian life is often criticized as a rushed series of events, and when it comes to job placement and health benefits, exiting service members are usually left on their own.

The Mayor's Committee for Veterans Affairs Chairman Martin Longoria is in charge of Operation Stand Down. He believes it’s the best way to connect with veterans and get them the resources they need that they may not have been exposed to when they left active service.

“You're not going to get all of those things (information and resources) that you think you need," Longoria said. "(They) just open the floodgates. You're overwhelmed."

Both Perales and Ortiz left the event having accomplished what they came to do, but what happens to applications veterans fill out after the Stand Down is over? It only happens once a year, so how can veterans monitor what happens to those applications when Stand Down goes back to being an empty lot the other 364 days of the year?

Essentially, the Stand Down draws veterans to a one-stop shop for various veterans’ programs in the area.

Before veterans leave the Stand Down, they are screened and entered into a database to be matched with programs relevant to what they need. This process, called a coordinated entry, helps area agencies identify all of the real-time programs a specific veteran needs after the Stand Down.

It also ensures that every veteran in the database is taken care of until the next Stand Down.

“On a day-to- day basis, veterans can walk into our clinic and meet with our program,” said Carrie Myers, the homeless program manager for VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend. “They (veterans) can call the National Call Center for veterans and that puts them in direct contact with us as well.”

Below are more programs available:

The National Call Center number is (877) 4AID-VET or (877-424-3838).

For housing, the HUD VASH program provides assistance before, during and after the process.

Here’s how you can contact the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend.

Go here for questions about veterans benefits, homeless programs, healthcare, education, employment and disability