Western Region One Source's one-stop shop for veteransOct 26, 2020 04:20PM ● By Jan Weeks
David Abeyta, 88, shares stories from his service in the U.S. Navy and Air Force at Western Region One Source’s Wednesday Coffee Club for veterans.
Before the Western Region One Source (WROS) opened in May 2019, veterans had to go to the VA Medical Center to arrange for health care benefits, then to the Veterans Memorial Cemetery to make funeral arrangements, and then to county veterans services or organizations like Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) that assist with benefit applications.
Now all of that can be done in-house, according to WROS Property Administrator Heather Benjamin.
Located in the former Colorado National Guard armory at 482 28 Road in Grand Junction,
the One Source is the triage of resources for active military, veterans, their families and caregivers in western Colorado. Staff connect them with resources to meet needs for housing, health benefits, vocational rehab and employment, long-term support services, transportation, medical equipment and more.
“Ninety-nine percent of these resources are offered somewhere, but often people don’t know how to find them,” said Benjamin. “That’s why we say we’re the one-stop-shop. We can be very helpful in getting to the heart of what they need and connecting them to the very best option in a quick manner.”
Veterans stop by WROS for appointments with Brian Oney, the county’s veteran service officer, for help filing benefits claims through the VA.
“We are trained to assist with all programs the VA has to offer and facilitate any communication the veteran needs to make with the VA,” said Oney.
Possibly the biggest attraction—and most unique—is the office for Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), which provides ID cards and benefits for veterans and qualifying dependents.
“Most DEERS offices are typically on a military base, so it’s unusual that our office here is not,” said Benjamin.
DEERS technician Jessica Olsen visits with people from across Western Colorado daily, since the next nearest offices are in Denver, Salt Lake City or Colorado Springs.
WROS leases space to community organizations facilitating programs that serve veterans in some form. Homelessness is a huge issue among veterans, according to Scott Whiteman, a veteran support specialist with Rocky Mountain Human Services. From his office inside WROS, he oversees the grant-funded Homes for All Veterans (HAV) program, which provides help for veterans who are experiencing literal homelessness or are in danger of becoming homeless.
“HAV provides outreach, case management and support accessing resources to more than 1,000 veterans throughout the state of Colorado each year,” he said.
WROS provides space for similar programs, including the VA HUD-VASH program, which helps veterans sustain permanent housing by combining HUD housing vouchers with VA support services, and Volunteers of America, which provides veterans with temporary financial assistance for rental application fees, security and utility deposits, emergency supplies and monthly bus passes.
The One Source’s newest tenant is the Western Colorado Area Health Education Center, a nonprofit that promotes healthier communities through education, including health seminars geared toward veterans on opioid abuse.
Care and support
While there are many organizations that veterans can join for assistance, support and comradeship, WROS’ services and support groups are free of charge. For vets, there are no eligibility requirements beyond having served in the U.S. military.
“Before COVID we’d have coffee on all day long. It wasn’t unusual for vets to just pop in and visit with each other or with a staff member,” said Benjamin.
Veterans of all ages and branches off service swap stories over coffee on Wednesday mornings, and the VA and Vet Center host weekly groups for peer support and vets suffering from PTSD.
“Peers can give support in more empowering ways than those who have never served, especially in combat areas,” said Joanne Iglesias, the Director of the Division of Veterans Affairs West. “Feelings of loneliness, rejection, and discrimination are dealt with by those who have been there, done that.”
Veterans’ caregivers are also welcome to rest and rejuvenate their minds and bodies with weekly Comeback Yoga classes.
“Teachers are specifically trained to serve the military population, and the practice helps vets build confidence, re-regulate their nervous systems, stretch bodies and calm their minds,” said Iglesias.
The One Source’s partners also offer addiction services, suicide prevention resources and even recreation therapy to give veterans the support they’ve earned.
“Right now our biggest population of veterans are those Vietnam vets who weren’t welcomed home, and a lot of them feel the impacts,” said Benjamin. “We could’ve failed them coming home 40+ years ago, but we don’t have to fail them now.”
Veterans should bring proper identification (VA ID, HINQ, DD-214 or Statement of Service) to receive services.
For information about the benefits at Western Region One Source, visit www.colorado.gov/pacific/dmva/wros or call 257-3760.
Meet on November 4, 11, 18 and 25 for WROS's Weekly Veterans Coffee Club.