New benefits established for Savannah veterans amid coronavirus


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)—The coronavirus pandemic has caused financial hardship for people across the nation, including veterans. NOW digital reporter Claire Going has a closer look at what the Georgia Department of Veteran’s Services is doing to help veterans get through this time.

Representative Joe Cunningham helped pass the VA Tele-Hearing Modernization Act in April, which allows veterans to appear at a virtual hearing in cases seen before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, instead of having to appear in-person.

This is just one example of newly-established benefits veterans can utilize to help themselves get through coronavirus-related hardships.

The Georgia Department of Veterans Services is continuing to inform veterans and their families about potential benefits they are entitled to through shutdowns.

“What we have seen is those claims that have been submitted, veterans are asking us to check the status more frequently because they’re concerned about getting their benefits, or they’re asking us to show that they have a financial hardship so their claim can be expedited,” South Region Director of Veterans Benefits Vince Pritchett said.

Two new additions include increased housing allowances for students and suspension of debt collection for the foreseeable future.

“Another thing that would save them money would be to enroll in VA healthcare,” Pritchett said. “Those things can still be done and they can be done online if they can’t get into a VA facility or get in to see us, they can do those applications right online.”

The department will be reopening its offices on June 15th after suspending its facilities for the past few weeks. They say it will help veterans who are hesitant to use a computer get help face to face with a service officer free of charge.

“What we’ll have is a pretty steady flow of customers as they come back in,” Pritchett said. “One of the reasons we decided to open this way was to allow to keep some social distancing because we didn’t want our waiting rooms to be full and we wanted to keep our veterans and our service officers safe.”

They will also continue to offer assistance with benefit claims and appeals support through phone calls and email so veterans can use the new benefits put in place.

“If they come to see us after the 15th, we are going to require that they wear masks, and we are going to require that they call to make an appointment,” he said.

You can find more information about benefits assistance on the GDVS website.

Veterans in the Savannah area can contact the Savannah Field Office to schedule an appointment.

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