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Veterans Supermarket to ease benefit search

ALBANY, Ga. -- While shoppers are unlikely to see bread or dairy products there, military veterans may find everything they need at the Supermarket of Veterans Benefits Dec. 5 at the Albany Civic Center.

From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., veterans will have an opportunity to find forms and information on a variety of federal and state benefits, all in a central location and free to the public.

"We'll have more than 40 city, county, state and federal agencies which deal with veterans benefits either directly or indirectly," said Pete Wheeler, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service. "There will be individual desks and representatives ready with information and assistance in filing for veterans benefits."

According to printed material from the Department of Veterans Service, the city of Albany and Dougherty County, which together sponsor the event, information, forms and assistance will be available in areas such as VA health care benefits, obtaining military medals and records, education and job-training grants, employment opportunities, mortgages, loans, nursing home care and others.

Wheeler said around 50,000 veterans reside in Dougherty County and the surrounding area, many of whom could be receiving benefits but are unaware of what's available.

"It's entirely possible that this one day could result in thousands of dollars coming into this part of the state," Wheeler said. "I don't know of anybody that would oppose that, do you?"

Wheeler emphasized that none of the many featured benefits is automatic but must be applied for properly. He said that help in filling out application forms will be available for those who need it.

According to the GDVS, the Supermarket of Veterans Benefits was born in Columbus in 1966 when an effort was made to better inform area veterans, widows, widowers and family members about available benefits. More than 5,000 persons made inquires during the nine-hour period of the event, with more than 4,000 claims filed an the spot. Since that time, successful supermarkets have been staged in cities across the state.