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Man helps injured vets plan for their future

| Monday, May 30, 2005

Ron Shroyer sees the effects of combat when veterans return from war.

Shroyer, of Connellsville, Fayette County, a counselor for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Oakland, works with wounded veterans to get their lives back in order. He helps them plan their future even before they recover.

"When I first get to see them, they are right out of Walter Reed or Bethesda," he said. "They come home on convalescent leave. After they get back to Pittsburgh, I start the process."

First, he sees to their financial compensation, which is based on a military determination of their disability. Payments begin after they are medically discharged.

Basic benefits range from $108 to $2,299 a month, depending on the extent of the disability. Special benefits -- such as for those who lose eyes or limbs -- can amount to as much as $6,000 or more a month.

Veterans too badly wounded to work again also are eligible for independent living programs in which the VA helps with housing. Shroyer said a severely wounded veteran's spouse or children can be eligible for education and training to become the family's breadwinner.

After veterans are discharged medically, the paperwork begins for their vocational rehabilitation. It's Shroyer's job to evaluate their potential for future employment.

The VA will pay tuition, fees, books and tools for a veteran attending school.

Marine Cpl. William Reckner, of Uledi, Fayette County, is taking math and computer science classes at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood. In July, he will start classes at Wyoming Technical School in Blairsville to learn auto mechanics, diesel engine and auto body repair.

"I get the education paid for," Reckner said.

Shroyer said Reckner is a prime example of a veteran taking advantage of the programs the VA offers.

"He's well on his way," Shroyer said.

Shroyer tests the recovering veterans to evaluate their capabilities to handle the pressure of college courses if they decide to return to school. The government will pay for 48 months of college education. Some veterans may have to take refresher academic courses before entering college.

"It's a process that takes time," said Shroyer, a 30-year Navy veteran.

"Biggest thing for the wounded vets is they have to be medically stable for employment. All the tools are in place for them to succeed."

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