Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Tucked away in the Cherokee County Courthouse basement is the guy with answers to veterans' questions about disability compensation and pensions.
Meet David Thomason, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant and Veterans Service Officer who has advocated for veterans, their families and their survivors since 2008.
“Basically I'm an advocate between veterans and surviving spouses, helping vets with disability compensation and pension, and I help surviving spouses with (questions about) pension. There's a few other things I do as well, but it's primarily dealing with the two topics", he said.
According to the www.va.gov website, “veterans of the United States armed forces may be eligible for a broad range of programs and services provided by the VA, including health care, veteran's compensation and pension, survivors’ benefits, rehabilitation and employment assistance, education assistance, home loan guaranties and life insurance coverage.”
The VA also provides burial and memorial benefits for eligible service members, veterans, reservists, National Guard members and their eligible family members.
In Cherokee County – part of the Central Texas Veterans Administration District – the VA has identified approximately 4,300 veterans in the county, “but I figure there's well over 5,000, because I know there's a lot who don't qualify to be in the VA system,” he said.
“There's a very high vet population here, and a lot of the ones I'm seeing are older. One of things we're working on is to figure out ways to get the younger vets in, those who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan,” he added. “The East Texas area is a (rich) area for recruiters (because) a lot of kids in this area are joining the service.”
He said there is no exact figure for the number of veterans he has worked with over the past four years, because “some we continuously work with, some we might not see for a while, and others are new (clients) coming in.”
However, “we've got a good number of surviving spouses in this area, and a lot of older vets,” Thomason said. “We kind of keep an eye on them, because the number of vets we have in the system declines every year.”
To learn more about veteran benefits, contact Thomason or his assistant, Allie Dixon, at 903-683-4012.