Walk-in clinics help more than 150 veterans

Published Jan. 23, 2020

One was a Coast Guard captain, heading into retirement and just starting to navigate the accompanying paperwork. 

Another, a young Air Force veteran filing for disability while attending school to embark on a new career. 

A third, a former anti-tank gunner with the Marine Corps who had left the military years earlier but was just starting to explore what benefits might be available.

They came for different reasons, but each found a helping hand and ally at Placer County’s first-ever Veterans Services ‘blitz’ events, where veterans from across the county received walk-in support from the Veterans Services Office in filing claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A total of 151veterans received help applying for benefits over the course of four blitz events in Rocklin and Auburn, including two events on Saturdays that were more accessible to many working veterans.

“I’m a football fan, and it’s fall. When we hear ‘blitz’ it means the whole defense comes at you,” said Derrick Oliveira, the new veterans services officer who joined the county in October 2019 and is himself a Navy veteran. “I felt it was important for us to have all hands on deck to take care of our veterans.”   

Prior to Oliveira’s arrival, the waitlist for appointments at the small Veterans Service Office had gotten longer with the temporary absence of a VSO. Representatives from Sacramento and Nevada counties had pitched in to help, and also agreed to support the blitz events to serve even more veterans. 

At each blitz event, there were coffee and snacks donated by local businesses and veterans chatted together before heading in to sit down with a representative to discuss their needs.

“They’re really friendly. I never felt rushed. That really just changed my experience of how this was going to be,” said Enrique Estrada, the Marine Corps veteran who had started off trying to navigate the VA’s website on his own, but quickly sought face-to-face support with questions. “If I would’ve known [about the VSO] years ago, I would’ve probably acted a little sooner.”

More than just a one-off, the blitz events also sparked a revamping of the VSO’s appointment system, and veterans can now call or email for an appointment within days rather than weeks. 

With more than 30,000 estimated veterans living in Placer County and just over 20% of them using their benefits, Oliveira hopes the improvements and word of mouth will help bring more veterans to his doors. 

“We’re excited about expanding and improving services to support our nation’s heroes,” he said.

Learn more about the Veterans Services Office at their website or call 916-780-3290.