Nearly two years since its creation, VMI’s Veteran Advocate Center continues to help America’s disabled veterans increase their mobility through wheelchair accessible vehicles. But what is it that makes the VAC so special?
“The VAC was created for veterans, by veterans,” explains Veteran Advocate Angie Hernandez. “We serve as a single point of contact for the VA, the user and the mobility vehicle dealer.” Angie, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom, understands first-hand the difficulties that can arise from coordinating benefits through numerous organizations.
Coordinating with three or more organizations to make sense of available benefits, it may feel as though there are so many hoops to jump through. “I’ve been there; denial after denial. Sometimes you feel like there’s nobody on your side.” Angie says that the VAC helps take the load off of the VA and helps streamline the process, helping free them up to assist more veterans.
When the VAC was first established in 2013, there were many veterans working for VMI who wanted to create a direct line for their counterparts in need. “We wanted to help veterans through the red tape of the VA process,” says Angie.
A veteran would need to get three quotes in the process. Some facilities do the research themselves while some require the veterans to research, and direct sellers are not able to provide support. The VAC works with the VA, USAA and mobility dealers to coordinate quotes and ensure that all available benefits are utilized to get veterans the wheelchair accessible vehicles they need.
When it comes to the veterans she speaks with on a daily basis, Angie knows most are frustrated and could benefit from someone advocating for them. But she wants them to know that there is help out there.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from the help we provide. Some people aren’t even able to leave their homes until they get their VMI vans,” says Angie.
She remembers receiving a thank you letter from a veteran who had been having issues finding an affordable deal on a mobility vehicle. “We found a used vehicle locally to save him on shipping to match his budget. He wrote saying, ‘I have hope now, I am getting excited. I’m over the moon.’”
Thanks to the work Angie and her teammates at the VAC do, veterans across the country have been able to get wheelchair accessible vehicles. VMI is grateful for the past two years of giving back to the brave men and women who served our country and looks forward to many more years to come.