The VA is teaming up with local agencies to help veterans


Reporter - Kathryn DiGisi

MARION, Ill. - Our nation has been at war for more than a decade, and now that things are winding down, more and more veterans are returning home.

Congress decided since the dynamic of war is changing, the services we offer veterans must evolve, too.

The have mandated Veteran's Affairs Medical Centers nationwide hold a summit with local social service agencies to see how they can better serve veterans.

The first VA mental health summit in southern Illinois took place on Tuesday at the Pavilion in Marion.

VA behavioral medicine supervisor Dr. Thomas Kadela says re-entering civilian life is a struggle.

"We want to give them these services now so they don't have the same difficulties their Vietnam predecessors had," said Kadela.

Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Gregory Mularz says his transition back into society was smooth, but he knows that is not always the case.

"There's a regulation for everything in the military and then they get out and there's not someone there holding their hand walking them through different things as simple as paying the bills on time," said Mularz.

Southern Illinois has a lot to offer veterans like him.

Sherrie Crabb works at a family counseling center in Vienna.

She helps veterans make a smooth transition home.

"Really serving as a mom or a dad, going to school functions, being there through the struggles their teenagers or children are dealing with," said Crabb.

Credit counselor Joy Gaddis says re-learning how to maintain finances can be a struggle for vets, too.

"They make a little bit more money while they're on deployment. When they come back their income comes back down or they're coming back and they're done with their service and they can't find jobs," said Gaddis.

He says integrating our heroes back into everyday life has to be a community effort.

Each attendee is required to complete a survey for their local VA about the seminar that will be sent to Washington.