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No veteran left out in the cold

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | December 1, 2021 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — North Idaho takes pride in honoring veterans, so when they hear about a veteran in trouble, they respond.

And they say local help is there. Always.

“Kootenai County is a pretty well-oiled machine,” said Bob Shay, a veteran and Post Falls man.

Shay, like many people, read The Press story in Wednesday’s edition about a woman, crying, who called in during an AARP town hall with Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday because she was unable to get help for her son, a veteran and victim of COVID-19.

She said she had to take him to her Boise home from a Spokane hospital, was having trouble caring for him and couldn’t get prescriptions filled.

After some checking, Little gave her the number for the Idaho Division of Veteran Services.

Shay was upset that a veteran may not be receiving the help they need and offered a phone number for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, 208-960-4104.

They can assist with many areas, like homelessness, transportation or meals, or point people in the right direction for medical issues.

He urged veterans and family members to keep numbers handy. For instance, the Idaho Division of Veteran Services’ number is 208-780-1380

“The worst time is when you get into a situation like this and you don't know who to call,” Shay said.

Terri Dickerson, an assistant with the Kootenai County Veterans Service Office (208-446-1090) said if they can’t help a veteran in need, they will provide information to reach someone who can.

She was surprised to hear a woman seeking help for her veteran son was turned away by an organization and wondered if perhaps that meant they just did not specialize in the area for which she was seeking help.

“Part of our job here is to try and point the veteran or their family members in the best direction to get the help they’re needing,” she said.

Dickerson said North Idaho is home to many veterans, with more moving here, which can stretch out resources.

They get calls from veterans with medical issues, financial problems, housing troubles and lack of food.

“We do our best to get them the help they need,” she said.

If it’s an area like VA benefits, Dickerson and Tom Freeman, Veterans Services Officer director, will have them come in an fill out the paperwork.

For needs like homelessness or transportation, the office will connect them with the appropriate source.

“We’re kind of as much a referral service as we are an actual service filing claims,” she said.

Bob Daugherty, veterans coordinator with St. Vincent de Paul, said three to four veterans turn to him for assistance each month, and he gets another 10 to 12 phone calls from veterans each month.

It was double that pre-COVID.

St. Vincent’s assists veterans and their families with VA educational benefits and other entitlements and offers free transportation to the VA medical center in Spokane.

Depending on the need, it might be taken care of immediately, such as food, auto repairs or bus tickets, or it might take longer if it’s long-term housing.

Daugherty said he can provide short-term motel vouchers.

The process starts when they come to St. Vincent’s Help Center 208-664-3095 on Harrison Avenue in Coeur d’Alene.

Like Dickerson, Daugherty said they might not be able to meet a veteran's specific need, but they will connect them with who does.

He said the number of veterans seeking help declined with the onset of COVID-19, but it’s beginning to pick up again as veterans venture out.

“We’re here to help,” he said.