EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 24, 2013

Services offered to local veterans

By Douglas Moser

---- — The local Disabled American Veterans chapter is hosting a meeting for veterans on Thursday that will include a Vet Center counselor to field questions about counseling and benefits services.

Don Silva and Greg Debrocke, claims services officers with the DAV, said a staff counselor from the Vet Center in Lowell will talk about the services the centers offer veterans and their families. The presentation will be at the DAV’s meeting Thursday at 2 p.m. in the Lawrence Senior Center, 155 Haverhill St.

“Their focus is to help veterans in readjustment,” said Debrocke, a Vietnam veteran who has used Vet Center counseling services to help him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Encouraging veterans who need counseling to seek it out is important to help them reintegrate after multiple tours of duty in the Middle East, and to curb a tragic spike in veteran suicide over the last eight years, experts say.

Vet Centers provide counseling services in a nonclinical setting for veterans and their families, as well as assistance navigating the bureaucracy to claim the different benefits available to veterans. Counseling can also provide a case file that makes getting treatment at a VA hospital easier.

Debrocke and Silva said their Disabled American Veterans chapter is local, and also can help with benefits and referrals for counseling.

The Vet Centers, which are operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, offer services in a comfortable environment.

“What’s unique about these type of people, when you walk in there you think you’re walking into any other office environment. It’s not a clinic,” Debrocke said.

Counseling services are one-on-one sessions with a counselor and do not have to lead to treatment.

“If you’re not looking for medical care or disability compensation, they’re perfectly willing to spend as much time with you in personal counseling,” he said.

Availability of counselors can be difficult because of the high demand, but the DAV and the Vet Centers try to accommodate veterans who need their services. Debrocke said veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan need counseling, but so do older veterans because issues like PTSD can surface years or decades after someone leaves the service. He sought help in 1990, about two decades after his tour in Vietnam.

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