United Spinal Association and its VetsFirst program recently hosted a lunch and learn session on disability benefits and self-advocacy at the James J. Peters Bronx VAMC.

Staff from United Spinal’s New York City headquarters, as well as veterans benefits specialists from VetsFirst, served lunch and provided attendees information on obtaining critical disability benefits. Staff also informed veterans about benefits they may not be aware of and offered tips and resources on becoming their own best advocate.

“This is the most valuable part of my job, personally meeting with veterans that need our support. When you can provide information and resources that changes lives for the better, it keeps you going,” said Christine Golden, who has close to 20 years under her belt as a service director at VetsFirst.

Other guest speakers included Jose Hernandez, president of United Spinal’s New York City Chapter, who shared his experiences recovering from spinal cord injury and the importance of advocacy and expressing your needs.

“A lot of people will talk passed us or talk to our aids. But we need to make sure we’re heard and that our needs are met. Do not underestimate the power of your voice,” said Hernandez.

This is the fourth consecutive year United Spinal has hosted educational sessions at the Bronx VAMC, which is named in honor of the association’s former president James J. Peters.

Peters was instrumental in helping improve the quality of health care for veterans and exposing the deplorable conditions facing Vietnam veterans with spinal cord injuries at the Bronx VA Medical Center and other VA facilities. This led to drastic improvements in treatment and care of disabled veterans.

VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal, leads the way in advocating for veterans living with disabilities and ensuring they achieve the highest level of independence and quality of life. It advocates nationally for all generations of veterans, including individuals living with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

If you or a loved one needs veterans benefits assistance, please visit http://www.vetsfirst.org/ask-vetsfirst/.