CRANBERRY TWP — Veterans discussed the government's “best kept secret” during a town hall event Wednesday night.
At least, that's what Jim Poole Jr. said he likes to call the VA (Veteran Affairs) center in Cranberry Township.
Poole and other veterans in attendance at the town hall said the biggest improvement they think the VA can make is in its advertising.
This town hall was the one in a series of meetings held to provide local veterans a chance to speak with Butler VA staff, provide feedback on local operations and to learn about the programs available to veterans served by the Butler VA Health Care System.
Poole said the “secret” of the VA's existence is “better than the CIA.”
“A lot of these vets just don't know,” he said.
Butler County VA Chief of Staff Jo-Anne Suffoletto said they would be looking into marketing issues to improve knowledge of VA programs.
The veterans in the room cited their lack of computer usage as part of a problem with receiving communications and suggested everything from sending out flyers for programs to putting canceled classes on TV along with school cancellations on inclement weather days.
Among other communications failings discussed was confusion surrounding who is eligible to utilize VA services.
Director of Operations Rachel Harrington said there are “a lot of misconceptions” about who is eligible to receive VA help. She said people think they might have needed to serve for a certain amount of time or even have a Purple Heart to come in, and as a result some people have spent up to $7,000 on hearing aids, for example, when they could be free or a marginal $50 copay.
In addition to the discussion, Suffoletto provided those in attendance with a look at upcoming changes, including the Mission Act, which is a new veteran law that will go into effect June 6. She also pointed out that the Cranberry Township VA, like other parts of Cranberry, has steadily grown over the years, seeing an increase of more than 3,700 visits annually from 2016 to 2018.
The Cranberry Township VA is located at 900 Commonwealth Drive and open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.
“The VA is a great thing,” Poole said. “I wish more people knew about it.”