Phillip Nygaard wonders if his hearing problem could be related to the two years he served in the U.S. Army.
The Scandinavia man was drafted in 1952 and was on border patrol in Germany during the Korean War.
“I have had a hearing problem seven to eight years,” he said. “It came on suddenly.”
Last week, he was among the veterans who attended the Supermarket of Veteran’s Benefits Outreach Program to learn about benefits and programs available to veterans.
It was held Thursday, Sept. 2 in the Marden Center at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King.
Among those Nygaard talked to was Jon LiDonne, the Waupaca County veterans service officer.
“I told him I can’t prove something came from my training in the service. I know they (the guns) were loud,” Nygaard said. “They never gave you protection for hearing then.”
The Korean War veteran has farmed since 1956 so he does not know if his hearing loss could be related to that.
“I’m not here to claim something I’m entitled to. I’m here to check out whether it would be possible for compensation for a check-up or a hearing aid,” he said.
Nygaard was given an application to fill out and was then on his way to check out what else is available for veterans in the way of benefits.
Andy Schuster is the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Supermarket coordinator. He said the Supermarket of Veteran’s Benefits Outreach Program brings together all of the partners at one location, he said.
“It’s part of our IOU campaign, which was launched in the year 2000,” Schuster said.
The idea behind the concept is “you were then when I called. Now, I owe you,” he said.
Since launching the program in 2000, more than 40 supermarkets have been held throughout the state, including one at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in 2004, Schuster said.
At these supermarkets, veterans can learn about federal benefits and how to submit claims for service-related injuries.
“Every county has a veterans service officer,” he said. “They help veterans get their federal and state benefits.”
At last week’s supermarket in King, there were employment and education resources available to veterans, as well as information about the funeral honors program and Social Security.
By early afternoon, more than 300 people had attended the program.
It was held in conjunction with “Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War,” which is on exhibit through Sept. 25 in the exhibit room at the Waupaca Area Public Library.
Schuster said the Sept. 2 supermarket was the fourth one held in the state this year. The next one is planned for Sept. 10 at Fort McCoy.
He said that while the Supermarket of Veteran’s Benefits was held at the Wisconsin Veterans Home, the program is not just for elderly veterans.
“Waupaca County has more than 2,400 veterans,” Schuster said.
And, he said that the counties of Outagamie, Portage, Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara and Winnebago combined have more than 40,000 veterans.
“Since 9/11, we have had over 30,000 service members from Wisconsin who were deployed,” he said. “Nearly 50 percent are members of the Guard and Reserves.”
The services that were represented at the Supermarket are benefits and resources that are available every day to veterans.
On Sept. 2, all were committed to being at one place.
Schuster said they used a variety of ways to let veterans know the program was being held at the Wisconsin Veterans Home.
Included were mailings to veterans services programs, press releases, paid advertisements and posting on the department’s events calendar. Facebook was also used.
For those veterans who were unable to attend last week’s program, Schuster encourages them to call 1-800-wisvets or visit the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs website at www.wisvets.com
He said each county’s veterans service officer is also a resource for veterans.
Waupaca County’s veterans service officer can be reached at 715-258-6475.
“A lot of times, people don’t know about the county veterans service officer or where it is located,” Schuster said. “There’s a section on the website that links to every county for the service.”
He said some veterans may have needs that they did not have before.
Recognizing the growing number of women who are veterans, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs holds an annual conference for women veterans.
The fourth annual conference is being held Oct. 22 to 24 at Fort McCoy.