When you meet Corban Baker, he still looks like he can step back into his Marine uniform and gear up for another deployment.
He doesn’t walk with a cane or get around in a wheelchair, so he doesn’t look like what he is – a disabled vet.
“I guess my point is we all know that a lot of stuff is below the surface, things you can’t see,” Baker, a Brookfield native, told the Brookfield Rotary Club at a veteran’s lunch on April 19.
Traditionally held annually in November to coincide with Veteran’s Day, the lunch was postponed for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baker, the former news anchor for WYTV Channel 33, is now veteran outreach coordinator for the Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission. Ohio has a veterans service commission in all 88 counties to help vets access benefits, he said.
Some vets are too proud to sign up for benefits, or don’t believe their service time was worthy of benefits. That’s where family members and friends have to encourage vets to at least meet with a service commission representative, Baker said.
“It’s important as veterans and as friends and families of veterans, co-workers of veterans, whatever the case may be, that we get our vets into the service commission to at least talk to our service officers, say, ‘Hey, here’s everything I did,’ and let the service officers get their hands on you and help you get the benefits that veterans earn,” he said.
“If you have an injury or ailment, mental or physical, that was either caused by or aggravated by your time in the service, you can make a claim through the VA (Veterans Health Administration) and you can get assigned a disability percentage,” Baker said.
The value of benefits escalates as that percentage – a numerical value placed on the service connection to an injury or ailment – increases. At the low end, a vet can get free healthcare for that injury or ailment for life. As that percentage increases, a vet can get monthly compensation, free prescriptions and healthcare for the family.
Service officers know the ins and outs of dealing with the VA, Baker said.
“A service officer is like a lawyer,” he said. “You wouldn’t go to a murder trial and try to represent yourself. There’s just so much that goes into VA claims, and the service officers are just absolute experts.”
Service officers can help vets apply for the Ohio War Orphans Scholarship and the Military Injury Relief Fund, obtain service records and awards, and access other services available through the state.
A vet can go to any service commission office, but some benefits depend on the county of residence. Trumbull County offers emergency financial assistance, burial benefits, transportation to the Cleveland VA hospital and assistance for the homeless.
“I know all those guys and gals over there (Trumbull), and they’re very, very good people,” said Baker, who lives in Howland. “I got most of my service connection by working with them, so they’re excellent.”