Gateway to St. Louis Veterans Resources
More than 9 percent of the state of Missouri’s total population is made up of U.S. military veterans, military families, and active, guard, and reserve personnel. In St. Louis alone, more than 500,000 military veterans live and work, with around half being over the age of 65. In 2015, more than $1.6 billion was paid in compensation and pension benefits to the state’s veterans, and state and local organizations are working hard to ensure that veterans are not only aware of the benefits their service has earned them, but know how and where to access them.
One of the key concerns for all seniors is, of course, where and how to get quality medical care. For veterans, the VA St. Louis Health Care System provides a wide range of services including a senior clinic, primary care services, emergency care, mental health and substance abuse care and treatment. The healthcare system also offers a variety of specialized treatments for veterans with advanced illnesses and medical needs, as well as in-home and palliative care options, and support for caregivers of veterans.
The VA St. Louis Health Care System is a two-division facility that serves veterans and their families in east central Missouri and southwestern Illinois, with the John Cochran Division located in mid-town St. Louis (915 North Grand Blvd.), and the Jefferson Barracks Division located in South St. Louis County (1 Jefferson Barracks Drive off of I-255). Its website offers an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide on what to do before you visit (determining eligibility and making appointments), during your stay (patient education and customer service), and after your visit (billing and insurance).
St. Louis is also home to a VA Regional Benefit Office, located at 400 South 18th St. The office offers services involving compensation, education, insurance, loan guaranty, pension, and vocational rehabilitation and employment for veterans, servicemembers, and their families. The St. Louis office is one of only four regional centers that processes GI Bill claims, and also is home to one of the eight VA National Call Centers. The office is open to the public Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Another key concern for veterans is housing, whether it is finding and securing the best home loans or helping a veteran who is facing homelessness. Utilizing funding from the Missouri Veterans Commission, St. Louis County has created a free 107-page Veterans Resource Directory that includes all of the information on programs and services available in the city and county, who to contact, and how to apply. The directory covers programs that can be especially helpful to veterans, such as the VASH Program, the Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as HUD or Section 8), special home loan options for down payment, rehabilitative and short-term housing options, and home accessibility and home improvement loan programs.
The St. Louis VA also offers an emergency assistance program for area vets who face unforeseen circumstances and are at risk of becoming homeless. The program is open to both men and women and can provide shelter for up to 90 days. If you know a homeless veteran, you can contact the Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) department at 314-652-4100 ext. 55460. You can also call the 24/7 VA National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) to speak to a trained VA responder. The hotline is free and neither VA registration nor enrollment in VA healthcare is required to use the service.
If you are looking to network or socialize with other veterans, or hoping to get in-person help with your VA claims from a fellow vet, you can visit any of the three Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in St. Louis proper (there are dozens more in the surrounding municipalities like Maryland Heights, Richmond Heights, and Florissant). VFW posts train service officers who can help veterans and their families navigate the process to apply for benefits and claims through the VA; they can even research, file, re-open, and appeal claims for free. VFW posts also typically host social events for veterans and their families on a regular basis, and often provide funeral honors for veterans.
Written By Megan Hammons