The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) continues to expand its mission to provide assistance to veterans and to active duty members and their families who are returning to civilian life. On Aug. 8, the DVS held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newest office in Virginia Beach, just blocks from Naval Air Station Oceana.

The DVS offices provide services to those who have worn the uniform, such as explaining what benefits (both state and federal) are available to transitioning service members, veterans and their family members. DVS workers can help folks connect to these benefits and even act as advocates, if needed. The mountain of forms, filings and claims involved in separating from military service can daunt even the most combat-tested individuals. DVS guidance can be invaluable in helping new veterans understand and access medical care with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, GI Bill educational benefits, civilian job opportunities and more.

Most DVS offices also have a veteran and family support program representative on staff who is able to assist vets and families who are experiencing behavioral health problems such as PTSD, as well as financial problems and homelessness. This individual is experienced in connecting those in need with local services and can offer temporary financial aid to pay rents, utility bills or other emergency funds through organizations and grants. It is largely through the work of these individuals that then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe was able to declare in 2015 that Virginia was the first state to effectively end homelessness among military veterans.

The good work done by the DVS is one of the reasons that named Virginia 2019’s best state for veterans. In addition to the commonwealth’s large veteran population, it also is home to one of the nation’s largest active duty populations. A significant number of those service members are stationed in the Virginia Beach area. Having offices convenient to where they live and work also makes it more likely those individuals will be able to find future employment right here in Virginia. That’s a win-win for the vet and the state.

Speaking on Thursday, DVS Benefits Director Donna Williams noted that everyone in her department works “hard to make sure that Virginia remains the No. 1 most veteran-friendly state in America.” Their efforts are paying off.

— Robin Beres

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