Cambria to bridge digital divide for vets

EBENSBURG — While still in its planning phase, a potential new program in Cambria County could help bridge the gap between veterans and important digital documents.

The Cambria County Department of Veteran Affairs announced Thursday that it is attempting to obtain grant funds for a program that would train veterans to obtain or send sensitive documents, such as health benefits or claims, from their hometown library.

“This is just a vision right now and is still very early in the planning process,” said Phil Rice, county Department of Veteran Affairs executive director. “We are looking to break the divide between our veterans and technology.”

If funded, the new system would train and assist veterans about how government websites and other digital platforms can be accessible from every public library in Cambria County.

The program would also establish outreach programs where officials from the Department of Veteran Affairs would host workshops to connect with current patients and find others in need.

“Our concept is two-fold. We want to get the equipment out to these remote locations so we can process claims and let people know about what benefits may be available to them,” Rice said. “The other aspect of it is to use our library system and show them how it can be used. There are librarians and people there that can help them use those resources.”

According to Rice, many veterans are not technologically advanced or do not have access to a computer from home.

Rice said it has been a difficult process for both sides in order to jump through the hoops of paperwork to get a veteran the benefits they are entitled to, and it can be an especially stressful process for veterans without internet capability.

Veterans without the capability to do so at home must travel to the Department of Veterans Affairs office at the Cambria County Courthouse.

“Especially if they are using public transportation, many of our veterans unfortunately spend an entire day just to come here and either pick up or drop off a paper,” Rice said.

“This is going to save many people a trip, or even multiple trips, to our office,” he said. “Instead of traveling across the county, you may only have to go to your hometown library.”

An exact cost of the project was not disclosed, but Rice said the maximum the county could receive from the Veteran’s Trust Fund is $20,000.

Mirror Staff Writer Calem Illig is at 814-946-7535.


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