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Experience with VA
Experience with VA
Much of the frustration and disappointment that veterans experience, he continues, is caused by lack of experience in dealing with VA.
“They go somewhere and ask a question, but either do not get appropriate guidance or understand what they’ve been told,” Unger points out. “Maybe they have combat stress. So, I call my colleagues in the VA health system, team up with them, bring the veteran into the mix, and find an equitable resolution.”
His “world” includes not only VA hospitals, but Vet Centers — the storefront counseling centers that are a formal part of the VHA.
“We help the veterans develop a practical strategy for taking care of their needs, be it enrollment, finding primary care, or more specialty care — like mental health or dental care,” Unger adds.
Unger can proudly tell stories of how his actions have made a big difference — perhaps even saving lives. In one case, an elderly gentleman had come into the office to take care of his final ID cards. Unger overheard the veteran’s conversation with someone else, learning that he had fallen off the wing of an airplane in World War II but he had never sought benefits.
“I asked if I could talk to this guy,” Unger recalls — which he did for 30 minutes.
Unger told the veteran that he really needed to enroll for benefits if he had injuries sustained during World War II. “I told him that I’m a proud vet, too, but that he had to understand that benefits were not gifts but something he had earned,” he recounts.
A representative made a house call and helped the veteran enroll and secure a claim for disability.
“I got a call five months later — he said he wanted to thank me for saving his life,” says Unger. It turns out the veteran had posted a “for sale” sign in his yard because he had been paying so much money for meds that he could no longer afford the house. Now, with a 100% disability rating, the veteran receives almost $3,000 a month — and his wife gets some VA benefits as well.
“They were going to move into a veteran’s home; now they’re still in their own home today,” says Unger. “He wanted to give me some of his money!”
Of course, Unger said no, telling the veteran that all he had done was empower the older man with the information he needed to take care of himself and his family.
“I will never say to them that this is someone else’s problem,” Unger asserts. “Rather, I’ll help them work through their problems. I’m a disabled vet — I’ve been there, done this.”