By James David

Killeen Daily Herald

Texas Veterans Commission counselors and specialists plied their trade in an unlikely setting Tuesday night in Killeen – a television studio. The commission celebrated its 80th anniversary of service to Texas veterans by conducting a live call-in show dubbed "Vet-A-Thon" at the KPLE, Channel 31 studios.

The commission was formed in 1927 by the 40th Texas State Legislature as the Veterans State Service Office to assist

Texas veterans by informing them of their rights and and entitlements. The name of the organization has evolved, but the overall mission remains the same.

Jim Neir, executive director of the Commission, explained its role.

"We have three programs we run and help Texas veterans with," Neir said. "Claims representation and counseling, veterans employment services, and veterans education program."

Neir said claims representation involves assisting veterans with filing claims with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The commission has a statewide network of trained veterans counselors to assist veterans filing claims for benefits from the VA. The assistance includes everything from filing the claim to representing the veteran

at a VA hearing or filing an appeal of a VA decision. As such, the commission is an advocate for the state's veterans.

"The claims department of the TVC is supported by the state's general revenue fund," Neir said.

Two programs have recently been added, the Veterans Employment services, and the Veterans Education Program.

"Those are supported by a federal grant on employment and a Department of Veterans Affairs grant on education," he said.

The commission has grown, as the last two services have been added only since the Spring of 2006.

"We have so many young veterans now that are eligible," Neir said. "The guardsmen and reservists are

a growing segment here in Texas."

If a reservist serves over 180 days on active duty (other than training) he or she has veterans status for benefits purposes. "That now brings us up to over 1.7 million veterans in the state, all eligible for our programs," Neir said.

Neir comes to the job with plenty of experience. A retired military member, he also has been the national and state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The moderator for the live roundtable format, Rebecca Guthrie, questioned the assembled staff of Veterans Affairs experts.

Connie Jacksits, director of Veterans Education Services, addressed the many educational opportunities available for Texas veterans, including the Texas-specific Hazlewood Act, and versions of the G.I. Bill, including one for reservists who have deployed for the Global War on Terrorism.

Bill Wilson, director of Veterans Employment Services, said veterans will receive personalized service at the Texas Workforce Commission from the Veterans Commission representatives.

"We can translate your MOS (military occupational specialty) into civilian language on a resume or job application" Wilson said.

The Texas Veterans Commission's local office is located at the Central Texas Workforce Center in Killeen at 300 Cheyenne Street. Contact TVC spokeswoman

Pearl Alston at (254) 200-2000, extension 2040

More information is available at

Statewide, there are 140 local offices, ready to help with any questions on veterans claims, education or employment services and benefits.

Contact James David at or call (254)501-7463

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