Vet population in Hillsborough County tops the state, local services get vets more money, benefits

Posted at 5:04 AM, Aug 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-11 06:38:10-04
Hillsborough County tops the state for Veterans - a new report from the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs shows more than 98,000 vets call this county home. Veteran Services in Hillsborough County offer free services to vets, showing them benefits, medical care and compensation they may not know is available to them.
Karen Gangstad is doing her best to get her husband help - she relies heavily on Veteran Services.
"With any vet, they have so many problems and nobody can understand how many problems they have," said Gangstad.
After 24 years in the Army, her husband, Brian Gangstad was severely injured in an accident that broke his back, and got him medically discharged. That happened years ago - but recovery is far from over and the pain extends to family members.
"They're dealing with something and we are dealing with our lost husbands," said Gangstad, wiping away tears. "They don't become husbands anymore, we become their caregivers. We become the person that is taking them to the hospital So, I'm sorry. It is a lot."
The report shows for the Fiscal year 2016, the U.S. department of Veteran affairs paid out more than $1.1 billion dollars to vets in Hillsborough county. That's $64 million MORE than 2015. 
Stephanie Shriver, a manager at Veterans Services in Hillsborough, says they open doors and advocate for vets and their families who don't know what is out there for them.
"These change peoples lives and that's why were here to spread that information to them and to make their lives easier," said Shriver.
Shriver works out of the Veterans Memorial park location - but there are 3 others throughout the county that offer the same free services. Walk-ins are welcome, but you can also call to schedule an appointment. Click here for more information.