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New website caters to Rowan County veterans

Local veterans now have a new tool to help them navigate the world of post-military life, disability compensation and veteran-related events in the area.
Dubbed “Rowan County Veterans Corner,” the website can be accessed at www.rowancountyveterans.com.
The online platform is the brainchild of Rowan County Veteran Services Officer Rick Johnson.
A little over a week after the website was launched, Johnson said it is scoring about 13 visits a day — with 64 visits in one day.
“This is supposed to be more of an informational service to help the veteran find the contacts and become aware of the different types of services that are out there for him or her,” Johnson said.
The word has to get out, Johnson said, and flyers soon will be printed and distributed around the community, including at Thelma’s Down Home Country Cooking where veterans have begun to gather on a regular basis.
The veteran services office at Rufty-Holmes Senior Center is a “pretty busy place,” Johnson said, and the website is another platform to mitigate the office’s high call volume and traffic bombarding the county’s pair of veteran services officers.
“If we can provide alternate ways for people to get information and utilize the services, I think it is a good thing,” Johnson said.
The veteran services officer said newer veterans are more comfortable in a digital environment and thus jump quicker to the web.
“I won’t say that our older veterans aren’t computer literate because many of them are,” Johnson said. “Our newer veterans will hop on the computer and search out Rowan veteran information long before they pick up the phone and call somebody. If we have a presence, it makes it easier for them and it makes it easier for us.”
The veteran benefits world often is misunderstood, and Johnson said many “fast food lawyers” direct veterans on what to do with “the whole ‘my buddy said, his buddy said’ ” approach.
“Sometimes that is true, and sometimes it is very far from reality,” Johnson said. “At least for those who have Internet access, we can start putting out articles that give information that can help them understand the processes as well as what things are available versus what is myth.”
According to Johnson, many veterans who are debriefed have only one thing on their mind — getting home and back into their routines.
“Many times, they are not really listening to a lot of the briefings they are getting, or they were briefed a long time ago and don’t remember what was said,” Johnson said.
The website also dedicates a page to applying for a DD-214, or discharge papers.
“That paper is probably the most important piece of paper the military will ever give you,” Johnson said. “That DD-214 is used to apply for any type of military anything. You got to have it if you want to use a VA loan to purchase a house. You got to have a DD-214 sometimes to apply for jobs. You can get a federal or government job and receive additional consideration if you have served. You can’t prove that prior service without that DD-214.”
The DD-214 is only a piece of paper, Johnson said, which can be lost, soaked or burned.
“This is a very often requested service that we provide, and we don’t have a problem doing that for people,” Johnson said.
The website also offers information on community support groups accessible locally as well as across the nation, including AMVETS, American Legion and American Red Cross.
Johnson said the website also includes tips for filing a disability compensation claim.
“This is just one tool — one tool of many that our community can use to reach out to our veterans,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he is hoping people recognize the website as a place to keep up on current veteran-related events in the community as well as an easier way to contact resources.
“Anybody who has ideas of what they would like to see on the page, they just need to drop me an email,” Johnson said.
For questions or suggestions regarding the website, email Johnson at Ricky.Johnson@rowancounty.nc.gov.

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