Veterans Column: Former Naval Base Commander Advises on Where, How to Get Benefits
By Vince Gangi, U.S. Air Force veteran and GCVF volunteer
Veterans, ever wonder what Veterans Affairs benefits you are entitled to? Having difficulty navigating the VA claims process? Want the veteran designation on your driver’s license or to take advantage of the California college fee waiver program for your children?
Many veterans or soon-to-be veterans wrestle with these and other concerns.
The good news is the Ventura County Veteran Services Office is a place where you can receive free consultative services and assistance on all matters relative to benefits. The office is part of the Human Services Agency of Ventura County and is committed to meet the needs of their clients.
Located in their new offices at 2901 N. Ventura Road, Oxnard, the veterans office is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You must call for an appointment. Services currently are provided over the phone or on a limited basis in person. For more information, visit www.ventura.org/human-services-agency/veteran-services.
The office is run by Jim McHugh, a retired naval captain and the former commanding officer of Naval Base Ventura County.
Since taking over the position in April, McHugh has embarked on an outreach campaign to reengage with the community. He has met with several organizations that have access to veteran groups.
Reasserting the message that his team of well qualified, VA-accredited claims officers are advocates for veterans and their benefits. They can address a variety of VA topics. His team never takes an action that will have a negative impact on the veteran or veterans’ family members.
McHugh asserts his claims officers are proficient in the areas of customer service, technical knowledge of regulation and law as it pertains to VA benefits, and proper disposition of claims and appeals. They are professional yet empathetic, understanding and most of all helpful.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, the 26-year Navy veteran is proud of his teams’ accomplishments this year. This year through June 30, the agency has filed 890 benefit claims resulting in almost $2.5 million in retro payments.
Further, these claims have produced over $297,000 monthly payments for deserving veterans. Finally, they have processed over 240 California college fee waivers.
And just in case you didn’t know, the office does not collect any fees from veterans or receive any commissions from the VA for any of the dollars collected.
McHugh advised that the irony in these statistics is many times the veterans did not know they were eligible for any form of compensation.
In addition to their main office in Oxnard, claims officers are deployed weekly to satellite locations in Ventura County – Camarillo, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Oxnard. Some of these locations remain closed because of the pandemic and visitors are encouraged to check online for updates.
One satellite office that is open is Gold Coast Veterans Foundation in Camarillo. Located at 4001 Mission Oaks Blvd, every Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. a member of the agency’s staff is available to consult with veterans.
Veterans are seen on a first come, first serve basis, so if you plan on meeting with the claims officer its best to get to foundation office early. You can sign in, stay and wait for your turn or leave and be called to return usually within 30 minutes of your meeting. All appropriate COVID-19 protocols of masks, sanitizers and social distancing are followed.
So, if you are having challenges with Veterans Affairs-related benefits or just want to find out more, reach out to the Veteran Service Office at (805) 477-5155 or visit one of the satellites to get your questions resolved.
Source: VC Star article from August 30, 2021