Many vets don’t know of available services
September 2, 2005
Doc League, 64, lives in Pollock Pines and works in South Lake Tahoe as the veterans service representative for El Dorado County. There are higher rates of diabetes in Vietnam veterans than the rest of the population, he said. And there are more disabled veterans who do not know the services available to them than those who do.
Q: What does your work involve?
A: This is a benefits and healthcare advocate position for the disabled veteran. I’ve been here seven months.
Q: How did you get involved in this type of work?
A: I worked in the position of veterans services volunteer for eight years in Placerville.
Q: Where did you serve?
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A: I’m a Vietnam veteran.
Q: Why is it important to you to do this job?
A: I became very interested in veterans’ health when I went back to school, specifically diabetes in veterans. There’s a higher rate of diabetes than normal for those of us that went to Vietnam. It’s become a passion for me now.
Q: What happened to the veterans van?
A: The van has been temporarily put on hold because we don’t have a van service coordinator in South Lake Tahoe. The county is currently looking for someone to fill that position. It’s a part-time volunteer position. The person doesn’t have to drive, they just have to take the phone calls.
If we have someone, we might be able to bring it back.
The van is a major issue because the phone rings once or twice a day asking “Where’s the van?” It will only intensify – it’s only been gone five weeks.
A lot of veterans have depended on this van for the last nine years.
Q: Any requirements for the position?
A: There’s lots of requirements. If somebody’s interested, have them call me. (League’s number is (530) 573-3134.)
Q: How many veterans are here?
A: There are 3,500 veterans in South Lake Tahoe. About 300 depended on the van on a regular basis to take them to the Minden VA clinic and the VA hospital in Reno.
Q: Do you think veterans are aware that they have these benefits available to them?
A: I think more veterans are not aware than are aware. And that’s why I’m in this position. The benefits are not advertised by the Veterans Administration after they leave the service.
Q: Does one’s disability have to do with the war to get benefits?
A: To be compensated, you have to be disabled through your active duty connection, or active reserve connection.
Q: How about the diabetes connection?
A: People may not know that their diabetes is connected to their active duty. It’s diabetes mellitus type two, which is adult onset diabetes. The VA has directly connected the contact with the herbicides that men and women were exposed to in Southeast Asia with this type of diabetes.
Q: What are some of the rewards that you’ve experienced working here?
A: It’s the sense of relief that comes over these veterans’ faces when they find out that there could be assistance on the horizon for them.
It’s a big step for the veteran that is down and out and doesn’t know what to do to know the government actually can take care of them. That part is very rewarding.
These benefits are just one way of acknowledging veterans who served their country. My message to them is: I won’t forget you.
Q: What kind of services do you connect them with?
A: It’s probably the most inclusive and comprehensive healthcare plan in the world. We take care of 8.4 million in the United States.
If a veteran is disabled, then the VA will take care of them. If a veteran doesn’t know they are disabled, then the VA doesn’t know it can take care of him.
We also have resources to be able to assist a veteran in employment.
The veteran has to be willing to ask for assistance, for healthcare, for the benefits they might be entitled to.
Q: Do you see women come in here?
A: There’s a lot more women veterans than people think. There are 7,400 women veterans from Vietnam, that rarely ever ask for anything, and get zero recognition.
Q: What else do you do up here?
A: I’m an umpire for slow-pitch men and women’s softball. I’ve done that for six years.
Q: Anything you enjoy about Tahoe?
A: I love this city. I’ve been coming up here since 1959. If the powder’s right, you can find me on Gunbarrel.
The Veterans Service Office is located in the Johnson complex next to the Health Department.
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