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Northern Virginia veteran helps fellow vets connect to free services

US Army soldier in universal camouflage uniform. (credit: getty)
US Army soldier in universal camouflage uniform. (credit: getty)
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A Northern Virginia veterans' group is cutting through red tape and connecting free services with the men and women who served the country.

There are nearly 36,000 nonprofits across the United States that focus on veterans, according to online charity database Guidestar. But getting those services and government benefits to the men and women who served is a time-consuming challenge.

After 22 years, Major Angela McConnel retired from military service. She was in the Army and Air Force and saw many veterans not tapping into helpful services.

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Older veterans couldn't navigate online applications and others grew frustrated with sifting through paperwork only to then find out they didn't qualify. McConnel started the Northern Virginia Veterans' Association where case managers get pertinent information from veterans and handle the rest.

“And then we make sure the services will accept them. There’s nothing they have to do. We will it out for them, we call the service, we apply for them, we make sure that it’s there, the resource, and that they receive it," McConnel told 7News' Victoria Sanchez.

Case managers conduct a comprehensive veteran intake asking where the vet deployed, where they served, for how long, and their current income. The nonprofit identifies health and housing challenges, food insecurity, and all the free programs that can help.

“Every time you do something it’s a separate set of paperwork, a separate set of rules and it gets overwhelming. I have a brain injury and all that stuff is frustrating," said Army veteran Brenda Lauer. “I’m very thankful for the organization, to be honest.”

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