USAVA Campaign Urges Vets to Use Benefits, Services

WASHINGTON — The Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs has launched a cam­paign to encour­age vet­er­ans of Iraq and Afghanistan to take advan­tage of avail­able VA ben­e­fits and ser­vices.

VA broad­cast the first in a series of paid mul­ti­me­dia adver­tise­ments last night in six major U.S. mar­kets as part of its Nation­al Vet­er­ans Aware­ness Cam­paign, VA Press Sec­re­tary Katie Roberts said

The loca­tions – Nor­folk, Va.; Raleigh, N.C.; Savan­nah, Ga.; Seat­tle; Water­town, N.Y.; and El Paso, Texas — were select­ed because they’re near major mil­i­tary bases and large pop­u­la­tions of vet­er­ans from Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom, Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom and Oper­a­tion New Dawn.

The new ad pro­motes one of VA Sec­re­tary Eric K. Shinseki’s top pri­or­i­ties: pro­vid­ing more vet­er­ans access to VA ser­vices, Roberts said. Only about 8 mil­lion of the more than 23 mil­lion vet­er­ans around the coun­try take advan­tage of VA ben­e­fits or health care, she said.

“This adver­tis­ing cam­paign is an effort to bridge the gap,” Roberts said. “VA wants ser­vice­mem­bers and vet­er­ans to know we are the resource. The soon­er we meet their needs, the less like­ly they are to encounter the reper­cus­sions com­mon­ly asso­ci­at­ed with their post-com­bat expe­ri­ence.”

For­mer Marine Sgt. Robert Kugler, an Iraqi war vet­er­an, plays the lead role in VA’s first tele­vi­sion ad, “What Lies Ahead.”

Kugler was deployed to Iraq when his broth­er, Mike Dohe­ny, a Marine vet­er­an work­ing as a civil­ian secu­ri­ty con­trac­tor for the Army Corps of Engi­neers, was killed dur­ing an impro­vised explo­sive device attack south­east of Bagh­dad. Kugler escort­ed his brother’s body home to Bro­ken Bow, Neb., and then returned to Iraq to fin­ish his deploy­ment.

After sep­a­rat­ing from the mil­i­tary, Kugler heed­ed the advice Mike left behind in a let­ter to be opened only upon his death: Fol­low your dreams and do the things you’ve always want­ed.

For Rob, that meant mov­ing to Los Ange­les and purs­ing an act­ing career. He cur­rent­ly takes impro­vi­sa­tion class­es at the Groundlings The­ater and School and has appeared in sev­er­al TV ads.

In his VA ad debut, Kugler urges com­bat vet­er­ans tran­si­tion­ing back to civil­ian life to take advan­tage of the ben­e­fits and ser­vices they’ve earned.

“Wel­come home!” he says in the ad. “You’ve served your coun­try. Now that you’ve com­plet­ed your ser­vice, you’ve got lots of oppor­tu­ni­ties for your future.

“But health comes first,” he con­tin­ues. “Sign up for health care at your near­est VA.”

“Think­ing about a job, or school?” he asks. “The GI Bill can help pay for col­lege and VA’s job assis­tance can pre­pare you for a career.

“Want to buy a house?” he ques­tions. “See if you qual­i­fy for a zero-down VA home loan.

“It’s your VA,” he con­cludes. “Take advan­tage of your ben­e­fits.”

The ad directs view­ers to the “My VA” web­site to sign up for ben­e­fits.

The “What Lies Ahead” ad is slat­ed to run through Novem­ber, Roberts said, fol­lowed by a sec­ond ad to run through the year’s end.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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