A Veterans’ Benefit Outreach Fair sponsored by the local American Legion post drew more than 300 persons, including U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert and State Rep. David Simpson, to the Gilmer Civic Center Saturday, and “was definitely a success,” said post Second Vice Commander Jerry Holsworth.
The fair for veterans and their familes was held to inform them of available benefits, such as home and land loans, disability claims assistance, counseling, educational opportunties and jobs. Representatives of several governmental and private entities attended.
Gohmert (R-Tyler) and Simpson (R-Longview) addressed the gathering.
Locally-based American Legion R.E. Peppy Blount Post No. 320 also presented a plaque to The Gilmer Mirror, which won an award from the Legion for its coverage of the organization.
Holsworth said 312 persons signed in at the fair, but estimated that at least 30 more failed to register. He said the event resulted in good “organization-to-organization hook-ups,” in which one entity referred someone to another.
Among those attending was Reece DeWoody, a representative from U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) Tyler office, who said Cornyn’s Dallas office processes Veterans Administration claims “all the time.” He was present to hand out privacy release forms.
Lori Thomas, Military Services Outreach Coordinator for the Longview-based “Help for Vets,” was also present, and noted that donations to her group can be designated to remain in East Texas. Her entity serves nine counties.
Also on hand to assist veterans was attorney Christina Gindratt, who works in the Waco office of Lone Star Legal Aid, an organization which provides free legal help to low-income veterans and other low-income persons. She termed the turnout for the fair “phenomenal,” saying she “talked to well over 100 people.”
Her organization also has an office in Longview.
Ms. Ginrdratt had literature on such matters as food stamp benefits, payday and auto title loans, being sued over a debt, and a handbook for people to represent themselves in court in divorce cases.
She said she provided legal information on such matters as benefits, estate planning and family matters, and that several persons had specific legal questions.
She quipped that she spoke to veterans “as young as 30 and as old as they will allow me to say.”