CALEXICO – In an effort to create awareness of benefits available to veterans and their families through Cal-Vet, the city of Calexico, joined by several other agencies, held a workshop Wednesday evening at the Enrique Camarena Public Library. The other sponsoring agencies include the Employment Development Department, the California Department of Veterans Affairs and volunteers from the Veterans Connect@The Library resource center.
Cal-Vet is a state agency responsible for administering a number of special programs to honorably discharged California Veterans and their families who reside within the United States. Programs offered include education, employment, healthcare, housing, advocacy/assistance and Veterans Administration claims.
According to Simon Marquez, officer from the Cal-Vet Imperial/San Diego LINC, most of the veterans fail to register with Cal-Vet when they complete their services.
“One of the biggest problems we have with veterans is when they get out of the military, they go about their lives and don’t receive information on existing programs, or what they can and cannot do as far as benefits, who to see, who to talk to and who to contact, because they fail to register,” explained Marquez. “If we stay in contact with our veterans, we can help them with their transition.”
In a room with at least one dozen attendees, Marquez explained step-by-step how to register on the Cal-Vet website and described in detail the programs and assistance available.
“Veterans don’t take advantage of their benefits because they don’t know about them and the benefits available to them,” said Marquez.
Imperial resident Rosalinda Singh attended the seminar seeking information on potential benefits for in-home care for her mother, who is currently ill.
“My father was a WWII Combat Veteran who fought in the European Theatre and never went to see a doctor and never registered,” explained Singh. “When he was elderly and in need of care I wasn’t aware that these benefits existed. However, now that my mother is ill and in need of in-home care, I am hoping I can get her some assistance. I was provided with potentially helpful answers along with a resource book and pointed in the right direction. I am hopeful that it will be beneficial.”
Carleton Bradley, the Employment Development Department Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program coordinator, stressed the importance of veterans staying in touch with their local EDD office who will assist them in finding jobs.
Another attendee shared his experience of how the program helped him obtain a job with the County of Imperial and the help he received along the way.
Esther Frias was looking into purchasing a home with a Veterans Association (VA) Loan, but since her credit score had dropped, she was no longer qualified.
“I was trying to purchase a home, but unfortunately, when I was overseas, my credit dropped and I didn’t qualify for a VA loan anymore,” explained Frias. “However, with the information provided to me today, I am hopeful that I can get into a home soon through the Cal-Vet program.”
Marquez explained that Cal-Vet currently has approximately $600 million available for transitional housing.
“Cal-Vet has a lot of money to lend out right now,” said Marquez. “Even if they think you don’t qualify, they (Cal-Vet) will guide you in the right direction and tell you what you need to do to get approved. It’s that easy.”
The Veterans Resource Center is staffed by three volunteers, all retired veterans: Army Veteran Jose Cuellar, Army Veteran Ernie Medina and Airforce Veteran Joe Vindiola. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Enrique Camarena Memorial Library.