PALM BAY, Fla. ā€” A new federal law expands Veterans Affairs eligibility benefits for another round of veterans, and to help serve approximately 70,000 veterans in Brevard County, a new veterans service center has opened in Palm Bay.

What You Need To Know

  • There are some 70,000 veterans in Brevard County

  • To help serve that population, a new veterans service center has been opened in Palm Bay

  • A new office is open now to help those who served get the benefits

  • The Brevard County Veteran Services Center is located in Palm Bay City Hall

Of the veterans living in the county, officials say more than 10,000 live in the Palm Bay area.

A new office has been established to help those who served get the benefits and services they've earned.

"That really increased the workload for all the veteran services across the state in terms of people who needed to file claims," says Veteran Services Manager Dennis Vannorsdall.

Lori Schwartz served in the Army for four years, joining up right out of high school when she was just 18.

She said she met her future husband, Jeffrey Schwartz, not long after joining, and right before Operation Desert Storm in 1990.

Schwartz left the service on medical leave, but her husband continued his career, which would go on to last more than two decades.

They found out they were from the same small town in Indiana, and the couple eventually had six children.

You could call their military service a family affair.

"My sister ended up marrying his brother. His mom is Lori Schwartz, I'm Lori Schwartz. His dad is Tom, my dad is Tom," she said. "Our parents are good friends ā€” they still hang out."

Schwartz said her husband died of a heart attack, which was connected to war-related injuries, more than a decade ago.

She said he handled all of their VA and health paperwork, and they scheduled appointments together.

Schwartz said it's been a struggle for her to tackle those tasks since she moved to Florida.

"He didn't make it here, and I was kind of lost," she said. "Iā€™m not good at this military stuff, because I've been out for so many years."

Schwartz has been able to get help at the Brevard Veteran Services office in Viera, but she says the drive from Melbourne can take up to 40 minutes.

Due to demand from the expansion of benefits, Brevard County just opened a new veterans services office inside Palm Bay City Hall.

At the helm is veteran Jeremy Van Cleave, who is a medically retired medic from the Air Force.

Van Cleave said his knowledge of maximizing his benefits helps him guide veterans and their spouses.

And so far, he said he's already met with dozens of them.

"To be able to sit down, relax, and find out what they need and have it be done in a quick timeframe is something they might not have had before, because I truly empathize with them," Van Cleave said.

Now instead of a long drive, Schwartz said her trip to get the help she needs has been more than cut in half.

"I need to stay more networked and call right away when I get something in the mail," she said.

Schwartz said having that help so close also gives her peace of mind.

The Brevard County Veteran Services Center at Palm Bay City Hall is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Appointments are encouraged, although officials say walk-ins are welcome.