Ruth Ann McCarter, a military widow, who lost her husband less than six months ago, has one message for families enduring similar grief: reach out to a local veterans' service officer.
"I felt like I wouldn't worry every minute of my day for the rest of my life...I knew I wouldn't have to struggle," said Ms. McCarter during a recent interview on the front porch of her East Tennessee farm house.
Blount County Veterans Service Officer or VSO Nathan Weinbaum helped ensure Ms. McCarter would see the "surviving spouse" benefits from the military go from a couple hundred dollars a month to almost fifteen-hundred dollars a month.
"She's like any other dependent or surviving spouse," said Mr. Weinbaum who spends his entire day helping veterans and their families get the benefits they are due from the Veterans' Administration.
"We help them with the paperwork," he said matter-of-factly. But Mr. Weinbaum has seen time and again how a conversation between a veteran or their family with a VSO can be life changing.
"Usually, when the veteran passes, it creates a financial hardship for the spouse, and when the VA can help it can make a difference in their lives," said Weinbaum.
He suggests thousands of families around the country should be receiving more benefits than they are, but they have not asked the right questions or the right people for help.
To find the Veterans Service Officer in your county call: (865) 594-6158.