INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Wayne Township has now become the first township in Indiana to have its own veteran service officer.
When filing VA claims, many veterans don’t know who to call or what to do.
"It's extremely challenging,” said Wayne Township's new Veteran Service Officer Pete Cowden.
That might explain why Cowden’s phone has constantly been ringing since he began the new position in January.
"I get phone calls every day from folks," Cowden said. "Some of them want to submit a claim. Some of them just need help navigating the VA in some way.”
While counties across Indiana have veteran service officers, Cowden is the first hired by a township. With a county as large as Marion, it’s a big help for veterans like Jerry Morgan.
“I'd have to make phone calls and research things, and he just hits a couple buttons and pop, there it is on the screen," Morgan said. "It really helps.”
For nearly 20 years, Morgan has handled VA benefits on his own and has even helped dozens of other veterans do the same. He was in a helicopter crash while in Vietnam and has had numerous health problems come up since. He has a hip replacement surgery scheduled for this month, and will now be able to utilize Cowden for help.
Along with paperwork, Cowden says sitting down and talking with veterans is another part of the job, especially when he can share his own experience.
"Having that common experience of being a combat veteran, I think that helps just for them to open up a little bit more,” Cowden said.
As an army ranger deployed to Iraq and with a sister currently deployed in Kuwait, Cowden understands the issues veterans face. In his new role, he’s hoping veterans no longer have to face them alone.
“I know what that's like being in their shoes," Cowden said. "I know what it’s like being ignored, so I feel quite blessed to now be in the other position where I can make sure that folks who are having problems have a voice.”
Cowden’s office is up and running at the Wayne Township government center. You can call the township offices if you’re in need of assistance.