Large turnout for veterans 'Benefits Supermarket'
WHITFIELD COUNTY, GA (WRCB)- In Dalton, it was a chance for veterans to get the help they need. The Georgia Department of Veterans Service, along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, held a 'Benefits Supermarket.'
The one-day session, on Wednesday, was held to spread awareness to all veterans in North Georgia to take advantage of those health and education benefits.
Vets will be the first to say these sessions make a big difference.
"I came in here (Wednesday) to get some information about like disability claims, education," says Dalton native Diego Sanhueza.
Sanhueza served six years with the Navy, completing two tours of duty in Iraq.
He says the Benefits Supermarket opened his eyes to valuable information.
"I get a lot of emails from a lot of my friends that are still in when they're getting out on the process of how to get some of these disability or benefits in general," says Sanhueza.
"We have 40, over 40 agencies, federal and state here," says Pete Wheeler.
Wheeler is Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service. For the past 46 years he has helped organize the supermarkets across the state.
"There are a lot of veteran's that are entitled to benefits that don't know about it," he says.
That is why he has been on a mission to help any veteran he can.
"No veteran's benefit is automatic. You have to know about it and you got to apply for it," says Wheeler.
The event provides info on everything from continuing education to help with finding a job.
And VA hospitals from Atlanta, Dublin and Augusta were on hand to give free flu shots and health tips.
For volunteers like Joe Evans, a veteran himself, it is a mission he is proud to be a part of.
"The veterans are really the ones that kept our country free where we got what we got today," says Evans.
Commissioner Wheeler says it is a thrill every time a veteran walks away with the help they need.
"If it wasn't for the veterans that served and fought, and many died, we would not enjoy the freedom that many of us take for granted," says Wheeler.
This is the fourth time Dalton has hosted the Benefits Supermarket, the last one back in 2000.
Close to 3,000 vets received help at Wednesday's event.
The latest numbers show there are about 60,000 veterans in North Georgia. Last year alone they received about $150 million in aid from the state.