A national veterans group that aides thousands of vets with their claims is closing it’s service center doors.
8News has confirmed The Military Order Of The Purple Heart is closing all of its 52 service centers nationwide, including their office in Richmond.
A veteran connected with the group spoke exclusively with 8News, calling it a big disservice to veterans.
“They’re not going to get the help that they really need any more,” Army veteran and nurse Beverly Hatcher said.
She reached out to 8News after she learned the MOPH office located on the campus of McGuire VA Medical Center is shutting its doors June 1.
It’s the office she turned to after a recent surgery.
“In addition to having heart surgery, I had a new claim I had to process,” she explained.
The MOPH office not only assists recipients of the Purple Heart, but like Hatcher, also helps all veterans negotiate VA bureaucracy and work through these lengthy and often confusing claim forms.
“The paperwork is tremendous, we call them a POA and if you don’t have a Power of Attorney to help you do your paperwork, it’s a lost situation,” says Hatcher.
Hatcher’s claim is one of about a thousand benefits claims the Richmond office is currently handling.
Deborah Brooks, the service officer who runs the Richmond MOPH office, declined to do an interview with 8News as she works to finish all the claims still on her desk.
However, Hatcher knows her well and tell us in her 33 years, she’s helped about 7,000 veterans.
“I heard people talking about the frustrations and I will say, ‘do you know we have a purple heart office? Let me walk you there,'” Hatcher said.
The MOPH service centers are not funded by the federal government or run by the VA.
The non-profit tells 8News a lack of donations has forced them to shutter its national service program.
In a statement, 8News was told, “Faced with a dramatic reduction of 50% of the prior year’s operating budget, already well below earlier years, the MOPH has been left with no choice other than to dramatically reduce expenditures for its outreach programs.”
MOPH also states, “No Veterans’ claims will be stopped or harmed in any way by this action.”
MOPH also adds this announcement in no way affects the continuation of the MOPH as a patriotic and fraternal organization.
As for any future claims, veterans will now have to find help somewhere else.
“Hopefully they reach out to their Congressman, don’t sit back and take this lightly. It’s not like they’re giving people a handout, they’re giving people hope.”
All of the services officers at the 52 centers around the country are now out of a job.
All of the centers will close by June 30.
8News was told the closures really came as a shock to the officers as earlier this year they were sent to Florida for training and some of the officers recently got raises.
While the VA does not run MOPH, a spokesperson for McGuire VA Medical Center tells us there are several options to assist Veterans who used MOPH within the Richmond VA Medical Center.
In the medical center, Veterans can utilize the Virginia Department of Veterans Services office that is available Monday- Friday, full time and will soon open a satellite office in the Emporia clinic.
In addition, there are service officers with the Disabled American Veterans available Tuesday-Thursday each week and the American Legion with availability Monday- Thursday.
Anyone with questions can contact, (804)-675-5135 or (804) 675-786-0286.