Thom Stoddert 

Agent Orange Clearing the Confusion
 There are many categories of eligible recipients of VA benefits, from an 85-year-old widow of a Korean War combat soldier to a homeless veteran recently discharged. One is looking for help with food expenses, the other is trying to put his life back together. The Lacey, WA Veterans Service Hub is providing resources to assist these people and much more. The center is well staffed by volunteers, most of whom are veterans.

Daniel is typical of the many clients seen at he Hub. Near the end of his last enlistment his marriage fell apart. Wanting to be near his children and go to school, he left the Army. Sleeping on a couch, no job, no money, little food, a broken car, and few friends, he was left trying to put the pieces back together. Then there is Barbara, a widow of a recently passed Navy vet who never planned his retirement well or told her where to get help. All she knew was that he was wounded in Vietnam, died of a lung cancer, and was a diabetic most of their marriage.

The needs of people like Daniel and Barbara encompass employment, education, shelter, food, transportation, claims to the VA, legal advice, medical, toname a few. How do you advocate or help people like this efficiently? The answer is a one-stop office where there are people with the expertise and compassion to provide real assistance.

The Lacey Veterans Service Hub is laid out like a doctor’s clinic. The person seeking help is greeted at the front desk and interviewed to identify all their needs. In Barbara’s case she went to the Hub to see about possibly getting food assistance from the county. However, it was soon recognized that a claim to the VA for Dependents Indemnity Compensation (DIC) would help her much more in the long-run. So, she was first sent to the county’s office for immediate financial assistance, i.e. food money. In the next office she saw a Veteran Service Officer to complete a claim for DIC that will provide additional income for life, all based on her husband’s medical conditions from duty in Vietnam. Lastly, she is given a basket of groceries to take home along with a bus ticket. All in one building housing representatives of various agencies providing a comprehensive list of services to veterans and family members.

The Hub also has a room large enough to provide meeting space to organizations supporting veteran’s issues. Recently it has been used to provide community access for classes on VA Survivor benefits.

The success of the Veterans Service Hub can be attested by the numbers of clients helped each month and the phone calls received from across this nation. What started out as a program for the county has now become borderless. With one paid director’s position all the rest of the staff are volunteers, of which there never has been a shortage.

For more information - phone Keith Looker at the Lacey Veterans Service Hub, (360) 456-3850. Just a thought for other communities to replicate this program.or visit

 New Concept for Veteran Services

Thom Stoddert
Thom Stoddert
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