Veterans living in rural Southeast Tennessee counties often must travel to Chattanooga for counseling and other services, but today the Chattanooga Veterans Center is coming to them for a first-of-its-kind outreach effort.

"Being able to take the services to them is tremendous," counselor Phil Elliott said.

An estimated 40 percent of veterans live in rural areas, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Elliott said the Chattanooga Vet Center, Hospice of Chattanooga and the American Legion hope to reach some who may not otherwise seek medical help, counseling, benefits and hospice care.

He said recent Iraq veterans sometimes won't travel to seek VA help because they can be stressed if they see boxes on the side of the road or have to drive underneath highway overpasses -- both potentially dangerous in combat-ridden Iraq.

Counselors also plan to take the event to other area counties.


What: Counselors and veterans service workers will answer questions and share information about services, benefits and programs for veterans.

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today

Where: Sequatchie County Rescue Squad Building, 513 Rankin Ave., Dunlap, Tenn.

Because active-duty troops who are discharged sometimes "disappear," counselor Michael Bearden said the outreach efforts are very important.

"We're creating this spider web of connections with all of these services," he said.

Sherry Campbell is a social worker with the hospice veterans outreach program, one of eight in the United States being studied as a potential model for outreach and education.

Veterans' end-of-life hospice care can be covered by the VA in some circumstances, she said.

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