CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Greater Cleveland United Way's 211 call line has a full-time veteran's specialist who assists vets who may not be aware of assistance services they're entitled to.
Tim Grealis says he understands the special difficulties veterans have, because he is one. Grealis served in the Air Force, his dad served in the Army, and he has pictures up around his cubicle to remind him of service and sacrifice.
"My dad was one of my best friends and it just helps me everyday to remind me of him and how he raised us and what we do in life," said Grealis, while choking up.
Grealis said his experiences as a member of the military brotherhood allow him to understand the veterans who call in for help.
There are numbers to back that up. According to a study done by the Pew Research center, nearly 40 percent of veterans who have served since September 11, 2001 believe they've suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, and even more say they had a tough time readjusting to civilian life.
Grealis said he thinks his personal experience as a veteran helps him broach difficult conversations with other vets about any underlying issues they may have.
Currently, the Top 3 issues veterans call for help dealing with are utility or rent payment assistance and help finding a food pantry.
Grealis said he was laid off in 2011 after working in information technology for 25 years, and he understands the pride veterans have -- and the desire not to ask for help.
"A lot of times when the veterans do finally call us they're at their last resort because there's a pride issue there, they don't want to call for help, they want to try to figure it out on their own and usually at that point they are at the very bottom and really need the help," said Grealis.
He also said that veterans may not realize they are entitled to additional help with things like utility assistance, housing, and finding a job, because they are veterans.
"When these guys call, I make it my mission to make sure that I help them as much as I can to help them to get back on their feet because I understand that's the hardest part and when they're asking for the help they're asking because they really need it, and I gotta do what I can to help them get back on their feet," said Grealis.
According to the United Way for Greater Cleveland, since the Help 2 Veterans inception on Veterans Day 2013, United Way 211's Help 2 Veterans call line answered more than 30,000 contacts for housing and shelter, individual and family support and other social, health and government resources.
United Way 2-1-1 is available to help anyone in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Portage, Media, Stark, and many other Ohio counties.