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Gig Line: As I was saying . . .

If you remember in last week’s Gig Line, I wrote about a phone conversation I had with Peggy Snead when I initially sought info on the Grief Share class she leads which offers support to those who grieve the loss of a loved one . . . however, there was more to our conversation that I wish to share with you.

After Peggy had described the class in detail, she proceeded to tell me that she had spoken to a gentleman out of our area who specialized in specific veteran affairs. She told me that he had been a tremendous help offering guidance and suggested I call him as well to determine if there was any further help, he could recommend.

I did just that and called his office. After I told him that my husband (Vietnam veteran) had passed in 2016 with brain cancer and that while the VA had acknowledged through blood tests, X-rays and physical exam that Billy’s diabetes II was related to his exposure to Agent Orange, they had denied his claim for the glioblastoma multiform because his brain cancer illness not being on the “presumptive list” and that claim had been denied by the VA.

He asked me if I was receiving the benefits afforded to the spouse of a veteran who passed as a result of a service-connected illness (for his diabetes II) so, I told him yes, I was gratefully receiving most of his disability benefit. THEN, he asked me if I knew about the educational benefit that could help me. He said I could be eligible to acquire an educational entitlement and possibly acquire an associate degree. W-O-W! Really? He also asked me if I knew I was eligible to acquire CHAMPVA that would help with medical expenses, especially prescriptions . . . W-H-A-T? So, for the 2.5 years since Billy passed, I only presented my Medicare coverage. Then, he asked me if I knew about the property tax exemption I was entitled to – again, W-H-A-T? I thanked him for the information which I had somehow missed altogether over the course of Billy passing.

I then almost immediately contacted our Dare County veteran service officer Patty O’Sullivan and came to know the following: what he had told me was true and Patty helped me fill out the paperwork to apply for the property tax exemption benefit; also, I investigated information through COA (College of The Albemarle – Manteo/Elizabeth City) about classes I could take under the educational provision entitlement and she helped me with the CHAMPVA application. Within a matter of weeks, I received acknowledgement/paperwork from the VA verifying I was entitled to the property tax exemption to forward on to the Dare County Tax Department and I received my VA issued CHAMPVA card.

I couldn’t believe it! On my first use of that card, I saved well over $100 on meds! Seriously, to find out the availability of help for spouses who have lost their veteran spouse who died as a result of a service-connected illness was emotional. I knew immediately that while Billy is in heaven, he is still taking care of me. I had no idea. My ignorance or not listening to what I feel sure I must have been told that I just didn’t grasp at that time of his passing, was shocking. But my friend cared enough to share information that was monumental to me and I’m grateful!

Financially, it’s been hard. The adjustment of Billy’s Dare County monthly retirement income stopped; my Social Security benefit stopped (when one spouse passes, the surviving spouse receives only one, not two S.S. checks, being the higher of the two check amounts) yet the same bills existed. Fortunately, this new, relative and extremely important information is helping me, and I can’t stress it enough . . . as a veteran or surviving spouse, please find out what you don’t know as soon as possible and make your inquiry directly to Patty O’Sullivan.

This enlightenment has shown me that when you lose someone so dear to your heart and your grief is so deep that its possible while focusing on your loss, you fail to focus on yourself and your life as it will and has to move forward.

I’ve been fortunate to love and be loved by my family, church, friends/neighbors and through our veteran community as many of you have been. I thank the good Lord for that. I’ve had the privilege of serving as a Dare County Veterans Advisory Council member since its inception May 2012 and to write Gig Line about and for veterans. But there is much for me to learn – not only for my own sake but to share with you.

In the meantime, I urge you as either a veteran or spouse of a veteran to call and   make an appointment to meet with our V.S.O. (Veteran Service Officer) Patty O’Sullivan at 252-475-5604. Patty wants to utilize the time spent with our veterans and family members to be productive, so please call her; schedule an appointment for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to discuss any potential benefits or entitlements you or your spouse could possibly receive now or could be entitled to at a later point in time. If you’re a veteran, please take your DD-214 with you to the meeting with Patty and if you have lost your original or don’t have a copy, no worries, she can help you apply for a replacement while you’re there.

I will keep you all informed as to the progress I make with the educational entitlement I’m interested in (even at 68 years old) and continue to encourage you all to utilize the opportunities afforded through the VA from your military service or that of your spouse having served our great nation.

Until next time, be healthy, be safe and be happy. Follow your dreams, never say never and love one another like its your last chance to do so. You’re welcome to call my cell at 252-202-2058 or write to me through giglineheroes@aol.com if you have a question or a comment and reference Gig Line in the subject line. Pray for our troops and our awesome veterans across this great land we call home. God bless you and by all means, stay tuned . . .

FOR MORE COLUMNS AND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, CHECK OUT OUR OPINION SECTION.

Gig Line: Veterans and spouses please listen up!

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