Veterans Voices: Annual CT Stand Down intended to help veterans with complex needs

Veterans Voices

ROCKY HILL, Conn. (WTNH) – There are nearly 200,000 veterans in Connecticut and each with unique needs when returning to civilian life. Meeting those needs can be a challenge, but when you bring federal, state, local, and nonprofit agencies together in one place, it can make a big difference.

It’s been half a decade since Tommie Benn served in the Army during Vietnam, and for nearly 30 years, he’s been coming to the state Veterans Home in Rocky Hill at least once a year.

“I’ve been coming every year since back in the 90s,” said Tommie Benn.

The annual Stand Down is intended to be one-stop shopping for veterans with complex needs.

“I think Connecticut compared to other states does more for the veterans. Every year, they have a standdown and this year, they made it better,” Benn said.

In a year when COVID-19 continues to complicate in-person gatherings, Connecticut officials doubled down on the Stand Down, expanding it to five different locations across the state this fall. It allows some 1,000 veterans like Benn to handle anything from judicial, DMV, tax, IRS, or health matters on one day in one place.

“We’re talking about issues related to financial, legal, mental health, medical issues, various health screens,” said Lesbia Nieves, Managing Director at the State of CT Department of Veteran Affairs.

As the first Hispanic woman to serve at Lieutenant Colonel in the Connecticut National Guard, Lesbia Nieves knows all too well about the never-ending transition to civilian life. For some veterans that transition back into civilian life can take a lifetime. Many people say that one of the most difficult parts is the mental health aspect.

“So many services have gone virtual, per se. There are telehealth services as well, so being able to reach all these veterans who are dealing with these mental health issues,” Nieves said.

When it comes to meeting veterans’ needs, either visible or unseen, the service providers just want to make sure no need goes unmet.

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