Veterans find answers right in their own backyard

Veterans find answers right in their own backyard

Bob Sousa, left, receives guidance from Steve Skuba, who understands the language used in VA documents.

For Steve Skuba, helping veterans get the help they need is nothing new to him. In his job at the Veterans Administration, that’s what he does every day. So when he recognized that local veterans had many questions that went unanswered because they couldn’t get into Providence, he volunteered his time to get those questions answered.

“Every time I’m walking my dog, someone is asking me about forms,” he said of his knowledge about the VA process.

Already involved with the Bristol Veterans Council, Mr. Skuba decided that each third Monday of the month, he’d volunteer his time and make himself available at the BVC headquarters inside the Byfield School building, where veterans can come with questions and he’ll guide them in the right direction.

On Monday, July 21, the first night he offered the service, it didn’t take long for veterans to find him.

By 6 p.m., one woman came in looking for forms for her son.

Then Mr. Skuba sat down with Vietnam veteran, Bob Sousa. After Mr. Sousa went through the process to determine if a medical issue would be covered under the Veterans’ Administration benefits, he received a multi page report of the agency’s conclusion. Now he needed someone to interpret what the government was trying to tell him.

“I’m not here to make decisions; I’m here to translate,” Mr. Skuba said of his role. ”You look at a document and it can be overwhelming.”

Before Mr. Sousa left, he had a revised manual of Veterans Administration information and benefits and a solid understanding of what his options were if he chose to proceed with the VA. For him, the first night of the service was a success.

“I probably wouldn’t have done anything, or I would have muddled through and not done it right,” he said.

Understanding the plight of veterans who are in need of direction to navigate the system’s processes, Mr. Skuba hopes that more veterans will find his services useful.

“At least it’s a forum where someone can come and show me what they have and tell me what they did,” he said.

The free resource is open to veterans every third Monday of the month from 6 to 8 p.m. on the first floor of the Byfield School building at the corner of High and Church streets.