published Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Veterans agencies tied by coalition

TO PARTICIPATE


• For agencies interested in joining the coalition:

423-634-1771

• For veterans or family members in need of services:

211

In less than two years, what started as a veterans benefits outreach has grown into a 40-agency coalition geared to provide a one-stop shop for veterans' needs.

The Southeast Tennessee Veterans Coalition consists of members of United Way, Hospice of Chattanooga, the Epilepsy Foundation of Southeast Tennessee and other area groups.

Sherry Campbell, a social worker with Hospice of Chattanooga, said the coalition began with different groups coming together under a federal grant to educate veterans and their families. A one-day conference held in December 2010 was the coalition's first large-scale event.

A recent meeting helped finalize details for a brochure and website with contact information for local groups that assist veterans. Operators at the United Way 211 information number will be trained in January to ask callers if they have military service and direct them to the proper help.

"We want to have a front line so that all of the agencies in town will be asking, 'Did you serve in the military?' If so, they can help them with benefits," Campbell said.

She said she became more aware of the gap between veterans and the services available through hospice work, where she met many Vietnam veterans.

"My measure of success would be seeing less 60-year-old veterans coming to hospice because they didn't get adequate health care until it was too late," she said.

Mickey McCamish, executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation, said work with the foundation to educate veterans on traumatic brain injury with possible epilepsy side effects brought him to the coalition.

"As I went down that road, it was apparent there were more needs for veterans out there," he said.

The retired U.S. Navy captain said he takes the work personally.

"It causes me to reflect and remember some real good days in my life," he said. "What it means to me is a way to give back to veterans."

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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