Veterans session

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (left) holds a session for veterans with Vernon Hunter, veteran services case manager with Community Action of Skagit County (center), and Randi Bowman, disabled veterans outreach program specialist with the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

BURLINGTON — Skagit County military veterans met Tuesday with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., to seek help accessing benefits and to call for more resources.

Upstairs from Community Action of Skagit County’s new Skagit Vets Connect facility in Burlington, Larsen joined those who work in veterans services for a question-and-answer session on getting access to Veterans Administration benefits.

Bob Garrison, a veteran from Marblemount, raised concerns about the lack of transportation for veterans trying to get from east Skagit County to the VA office in Seattle.

He said while veterans can get van transportation from Sedro-Woolley, and Skagit Transit runs a bus once a week to Marblemount, “If you miss that, you’re SOL until the following week. We have a hard time from Concrete on (east). It’s been iffy for years.”

Garrison suggested the American Legion post in Burlington could buy a van to help with transport, but he said the post doesn’t have the resources.

“If we had a van here, we could take seven vets down four days a week,” he said, regarding the number of people who would benefit.

Larsen said he and Mac Thornberry, a Republican representative from Texas, reintroduced a bill last week called the Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act, which would make permanent three programs that help veterans with transport to VA appointments.

He said finding the resources to support reliable transportation for veterans is something he’s worked on for years, and will continue to study.

“It’s a perennial issue, and I can’t find a permanent solution,” he said.

Other attendees requested help navigating their benefit claims or effectively communicating with VA staff.

Larsen reminded veterans in his district to call his office if they are having trouble working with the VA.

“If you call our office, we’re going to help you get what you earned,” he said.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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