Local leaders say 'the future is bright' for Horry County veterans

Horry County veterans could see a boost in local support. (Taggart Houck/WPDE)

Numbers show Horry County has undeniably grown. With it, so has the Horry County veteran population.

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, about 400 more veterans moved to the county from 2014 to 2015.

The county is now home to the second-highest number of veterans in South Carolina. Many of them said, in past years, services for them here have been lacking.

But, on Thursday, the head of Horry County's Veterans Affairs (VA) said stronger support at the national and county level are helping to eliminate those concerns moving forward.

"(There have) been a lot of improvements in the last two years. And, I really appreciate the support from the county and the leadership from the county on helping me get there," said Ronnie Elvis, the leader of the Horry County VA.

The 27-year veteran took over the local VA office in 2015. He says, since then, he's seen big changes in what services are available to veterans.

Elvis also said it's his mission to make the situation a bit better.

"In the past, I've heard some stories about what could've been improved and I used that in my decision-making process when I came here, to try to improve the service that the veterans in Horry County receive.

Elvis said, on a national level, the government is also doing their part to help veterans.

"The current administration actually has spent a lot of time and money in approving a new appeals process," said Elvis.

Traditionally, veterans appeals to the VA for declined service can take several years.

"With the new process they've approved and implemented, you're talking about a few months versus several years," said Elvis.

With that new process in place, transactions, which Elvis defined as emails and calls, or any contact between the VA and veterans, have nearly doubled from last year.

He said wait times are now down to about three weeks. Still, local leaders are hoping to push for more from the county.

"(With) the combination of federal support, state support, and county support, I think the future is bright for our veterans here," said Elvis.

More help will soon be on the way. A new medical clinic in Myrtle Beach will soon break ground, Elvis said.

In national news, he said veterans will soon get ID cards, which can be used for discounts at major retailers.

Not only are local veterans seeing greater support from the government, some say they're seeing a great deal of community support.

On Thursday, students and staff at Horry Georgetown Technical College gather for a barbecue to show their support for veterans.

HGTC officials said about 250 of their students have served or are still serving in the military.

"Even just active service members coming out to support veterans and organizations like these, it's just--it's just awesome to see," said Chrishell Mishoe, a current member of the U.S. National Guard.

Money raised at the barbecue will go toward the Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center in Little River.

Saturday, Nov. 11 is Veterans day. There are a number of events planned in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee to honor our veterans.

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