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Grinder says veterans' care a top priority

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I love to take care of soldiers, Grinder said, referring back to her time as a Personnel officer and now as the Veterans Affairs Commissioner.


Before taking the job, Grinder said she was possibly in line to become the first female General in the Tennessee Army National Guard. But in January 2011, then Governor-elect Haslam asked her to serve as the commissioner of Veterans Affairs.


I had to think about it, for about half a second, she laughed.


In the past 14 months, shes worked to get more information to Tennessees 500,000 veterans and their 1.5 million family members. The greatest difficulty in the department is getting the word out about the benefits that veterans are eligible to receive.


Grinder said often, veterans are unaware of the issues they may be dealing with after returning home, or may be too proud or humble to seek help. The first thing Grinder did was ask the Governor and Tennessee General Assembly for a public relations staff.


I get very frustrated and sad that a lot of veterans dont know what theyre eligible for, she said.


In a department of only 90 employees, Grinder noted she now has one public relations officer who is working to spread the word and update the departments website, making it a place for veterans to find vital information.


The department advocates for veterans and their families, helping them receive aid for physical, mental and emotional wounds suffered during their service.


Typically, when a veteran comes in, they have a physical or emotional problem. There are also economic challenges for our veterans, Grinder said.


Grinder said their major task is assisting veterans in filing a claim with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.


She said it often takes veterans years to receive benefits and the process of applying for those benefits or filing a claim is arduous and very complex. Also, the changes in laws or policies of the federal department can make it confusing when applying for benefits.


Grinder said her department is also working with and training the county veterans services officers, such as Wilson County Veterans Services Director Bernie Ash. She said they have to be educated and trained on the changing laws, policies and how to best help the veterans they serve on a local level.


Both the service people and their families have paid a price, it is now our turn to take care of them, Grinder said.


Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.


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