People who are getting out of the service have trouble readjusting to family life and, just as often, their families have a tough time getting used to them again, too.
Some veterans have trouble finding jobs. The longer they’ve been away, the harder the job search might be. Contacts are old; businesses have moved. Some vets have much more serious issues, like physical disabilities or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Veterans can get help. There are benefits, and there is help available to get those benefits, said Mary Dillinger, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Counseling, referrals and even help sorting out the Veterans Administration paperwork are available at the Philadelphia Vet Center Northeast in Olney, said the center’s team leader, Juan F. Malavé. The staffers there speak the same language as vets, and the services are free.
For example, Vietnam veteran Jim Johnston, who lives near Grant Avenue and Academy Road, stopped in Oct. 27 for help obtaining some benefit forms.
The center’s counselors will help vets get their veterans ID cards, which, in turn, will make it easier for them to apply for benefits. Malavé can find out a lot about a veteran from his discharge paperwork, or DD214, Dillinger said.
“It states everything about you,” she added.
Veterans with disabilities are eligible for eight categories of benefits, counselor Jon McWilliams said. The center’s personnel can help a vet determine the appropriate category.
“We assess what a veteran’s needs are,” Malavé said, adding that the center’s counselors try to get involved in helping the vet or referring him or her to the right place for assistance.
For example, he said, counselors will help a vet get health care. “You’ve got to be healthy to work or go to school,” Malavé said.
A top problem, though, is getting veterans the information about what is available to them, said family therapist Sarah Irizarry.
“A lot of vets assume when they got out that they’re ineligible for (health) benefits,” Dillinger said.
What they should do, she said, is visit the Philadelphia Vet Center Northeast to determine their eligibility.
ldquo;It won’t be a waste of time,” she said.
During a recent interview at the center, Malavé, Dillinger, McWilliams and Irizarry talked about some of the problems they see confronting veterans when they come home.
A primary service offered by the center is readjustment counseling, Malavé said.
“We do that right here,” he said.
But what is “readjustment”?
Service personnel stationed overseas are counseled before they head home about what to expect and how to ease back to civilian life, Dillinger said, but some have a very difficult time.
“Some guys don’t listen, or don’t think it pertains to them,” she said.
Normal readjustment problems can be aggravated by post-traumatic stress disorder, the counselors said. Family members can experience a secondary trauma, Irizarry noted.
She said counselors look for symptoms of wider problems — withdrawal, sexual dysfunction, arguing, infidelity.
Sometimes, it can be the whole family that must readjust — even to the most humdrum aspects of life outside the service. If the family lived in a military environment while one or both spouses were in the service, the change to civilian life can be made stressful even while doing something as simple as grocery shopping.
When you are no longer shopping at the PX, or post exchange, you’re no longer getting the low prices you’re used to, Dillinger said. At the PX, you weren’t paying any taxes; in civilian life, you are.
Leaving the service and coming home to your family, McWilliams said, means giving people some leeway — and asking for it too.
ldquo;You have to renegotiate your life,” he said. ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Help for veterans
Philadelphia Vet Center (NE), 101 E. Olney Ave., is one of two facilities where veterans can get information on benefits and required forms to apply for the benefits, as well as counseling.
The other is at 801 Arch St., Suite 502, in Center City.
The center has several free services for veterans who have returned from war zones:
• Alcohol and drug assessments and referrals
• Assistance applying for veterans benefits and services
• Bereavement counseling for eligible family members
• Employment guidance and referrals
• Individual and family counseling
• Information and referral to community resources
• Marital and family counseling
• Medical referrals
• Sexual trauma counseling and referrals
Staff: Juan Malavé, team leader; Carmen Reveron and John McWilliams, counselors; Sarah Irizarry, family therapist
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Phone: 215-924-4670 or toll-free at 866-360-2080.
Visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Web site at http://www.philadelphia.va.gov/