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OREGON — The Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs is expanding the Veteran Volunteer Program across the state after a successful pilot project and is recruiting volunteers to work with aging veterans to help them access benefits and resources.

The program will equip participants with information so they can help educate veterans about their earned benefits and other resources. The program will largely focus on seniors in care home facilities.

A phased rollout of the program is planned over the next two to three years.

"This program is about mobilizing the power of volunteers to help Oregon veterans understand and gain access to their earned benefits," said Veteran Volunteer Coordinator Mark Newell. "I hear from a lot of people who want to thank our veterans in a tangible way, and this is one way volunteers can have a lasting, positive impact on a veteran's life."

Volunteers work closely with the Veteran Volunteer Coordinator and accredited Veteran Service Officers in each county, finding veterans living in long-term care facilities who may need assistance accessing benefits.

"Veterans over the age of 65 now represent over half of the state's veteran population," said ODVA Director Kelly Fitzpatrick. "They are an important part of our Oregon veteran community, and effective outreach is critical to ensuring they have access to all the benefits and resources they need and are entitled to."

Anyone 18 years old or older is welcome to volunteer, especially people who enjoy working with the aging population and want to make a difference in the lives of veterans.

The first training for volunteers will be held on Jan. 20 in Multnomah, Washington, Yamhill or Columbia county areas. There is no cost for training, but registration is required.

To register, or get more information, visit oregonvetvolunteer.com, contact Newell at 503-373-2057 or email veteranvolunteer@odva.state.or.us.

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Reporter Adam Robertson can be reached at 541-297-3590, or by email at adam.robertson@theworldlink.com.

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