VA benefits coordinator helps vets with health care

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- The Grand Junction VA Medical Center is trying to get more veterans enrolled for health care and benefits. They have a full-time VA Benefits Coordinator to help make that happen.

Scott Johnston says he was a by the book soldier, and says he was never told how to get VA benefits after his time in the Army.

"I went in shortly after Grenada, and then got out before the first Desert Storm. I was honorably discharged," Johnston said.

He says he suffers from hearing loss.

"I was totally unaware that's what hearing loss could cause, it can cause dementia," Johnston said.

Scott recently talked to another vet that was in a similar situation.

"With a Korea War veteran not being aware, there's got to be thousands in this area," Johnston said.

That's where VA Benefits Coordinator, Charles Bruen comes in.

"My focus is to educate veterans, let them know about their benefits, and make sure they are taken care of," Bruen said.

His main job is to make enrolling for benefits easier for vets.

"If they are having problems getting something done, then I get involved, and see what I can do to break up the backlog, why things aren't moving," Bruen said.

As a Vietnam vet himself, he understands the issue.

"A lot of them just don't have the knowledge base because they were never told. We didn't have briefings way back then," Bruen said.

The VA wants to get more vets in the door.

"We lose on average 20 veterans a day nation-wide to suicide," said Director of VA Western Colorado Healthcare System, Michael Kilmer.

Even more reason to get them enrolled.

"Of those 20, 14 of them have never come into the VA," Kilmer said.

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