Posted: Oct 12, 2011 7:10 AM by Brittany Wooley (KTVQ News)
Updated: Oct 12, 2011 7:20 AM
BILLINGS- As many as 400 Billings area veterans got help Tuesday getting back on their feet.
The Volunteers of America Northern Rockies hosted the Billings Stand Down in coordination with VA Montana Health Care System and the Department of Labor.
Matt Cowie served in the U.S. Army in the late '70s, not knowing until recently about many of the benefits he qualifies for. He attended his first Veterans Stand Down last year.
"If it hadn't been for coming to one of these, there are a few things I would have never got like housing, medical- things I didn't know I could get," Cowie said.
About 30 vendors issued warm clothing, flu shots, and other basic amenities, while providing information about employment, housing assistance, and VA benefits.
"They are entitled to the benefits, and we want them to use their benefits. We don't want them to struggle out in the community. These events attract veterans who are not enrolled in our system," the Director of VA Montana Health Care System, Robin Korogi, said.
Korogi added there are an estimated 300 homeless veterans in the Billings community and hundreds more in need.
"By 2015, it's our hope that organizations like ours, communities like Billings, can work with the veterans administration to end homelessness with veterans," CEO of Volunteers of America Northern Rockies, Jeff Holsinger said.
The concept of Stand Downs held across the nation came from Stand Downs in the Vietnam War where soldiers returning from combat took refuge at safe camps where they could recieve medical and dental care, take care of personal hygiene, and eat a warm meal.
Cowie came back this year to get assistance going back to school and he's urging others to take advantage of opportunities like this to get back on their feet.
"There are a lot of homeless vets who are out there that could get warm clothing, like a pair of shoes, and even get a free haircut," Cowie said.
The Stand Down kicks off the VA's national outreach campaign to increase awareness of services available to at-risk veterans.
About a dozen Stand Down events held across Montana with the Billings event being the largest.