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410 veterans seek help at American Legion weeklong tour, dozens of claims granted

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas -- The American Legion tour wrapped up in the Borderland on Friday after a weeklong event of assisting veterans with VA appointments, medical care enrollment, and filing VA benefits.

Officials with the American Legion said 410 military veterans from El Paso came through this week for assistance with their medical needs.

Verna Jones, director of Veteran Affairs and Rehabilitation for the American Legion, called it an overwhelming response from veterans in the community.

"This week was amazing," Jones said. "Veterans who walked in and wanted appointments, they got appointments."

Jones said a couple of veterans were even able to get an appointment with the VA within the same day of coming in to the Veteran Crisis Command Center.

Jones added that 74 military veterans were granted VA benefits and $461,950 in claims to cover medical issues.

"Some of them it's going to put them in a higher priority, so it's going to allow them to go in a little quicker," Jones said.

However, some veterans who came for help said they're still waiting to receive it.

"Even though 400 veterans showed up, you can't assume that they all got help," said Gregory Romeu, a Marine Veteran from Presidio. 

Romeu said he has been trying to file his claim since the 1970s.

"A situation like this comes up, and they go,Oh, file again, file again,' and you go through the same crap," Romeu said.

"It's been such a hard road for a lot of veterans in El Paso," said Ron Holmes, a service officer with American Legion Post 58.

Holmes said nearly 3,000 have fallen through the cracks locally and not even close to that many came in for help.

"I think a lot of veterans in El Paso kind of have the feeling of, Theyre here but they're here for a couple of days and I'm just going to get lost in the shuffle,'" Holmes said.

Holmes said he plans to work with local veterans and agencies to create something like the Veteran Crisis Command Center at a local level.

"I would like to see us locally take care of our own issues," Holmes said. "We would be here 24/7, 365 days in the year."

Holmes said the local effort is still in the works, but they're hoping to create a community clinic for veterans in El Paso by Veterans Day.

The American Legion tour's next stops will be in Fort Collins, Colorado, on July 14 and Baltimore, Maryland on July 28.