Veterans Service Changes Impact Thousands

They serve our country and come back home with many needs. KLTV 7 learned that one federal agency serving our East Texas veterans has discontinued their benefit counseling and claims submission.

Kenneth Bragg lost an eye serving in Vietnam. Since he returned home, he's relied on the VA for help.

"I had a tough time getting all my VA benefits," said Bragg.

With the Iraq war now in it's fifth year, he's worried about our young servicemen and women, and their when they come back.

"It's going to get worse. We have kids coming home everyday that need help," said Bragg.

Help like health care, pension, disability...just to name a few.

"There are some veterans that have been injured as a result of their active military service. If they have been injured and it causes a disability to civilian life, they can file claims. These claims are very complicated, very difficult, and so they seek our assistance to help them file claims," said Toby Cross,  Director, Veterans Services for Smith County.

But to serve these thousands of East Texas veterans there are now just three people in the Smith County Veterans Service Office, picking up the burden left when the federal V A's office closed down this service.

Director Toby Cross says being that under-staffed and under-equipped is severely hurting their efficiency, and now, they want help.

"Court requesting assistance from federal authorities and try and reopen the office here," said Smith County Commissioner Bobby Van Ness.

Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Louie Gohmert have both been asked to look see if they can help get the federal program re-instated. For now many are hoping all this involvement can get results, so East Texas veterans can get the help they need.

"We really need to help them because they are doing a fantastic job over there. They are our heroes," said Bragg.

Late Monday afternoon we were able to contact the regional office that oversees the Tyler federal office. They say they are in the process of assigning a new veteran's service representative to the location in Tyler on a part time basis.

Danielle Capper, Reporting.