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I don’t expect to see Stu Cundiff pushing a cart up and down Washington Street, hawking apples, oranges and a variety of other fruit anytime soon. Mind you, he could if he wanted to.
He has a permit from the Bartholomew County auditor’s office that proclaims he is licensed to “vend, hawk and peddle goods, wares, fruits and merchandise” in Bartholomew County. And he got it for free — all because he is a veteran who served in overseas assignments.
The deal on the permit is a benefit that is available only to veterans. It was authorized by the Indiana General Assembly.
Stu, a retired minister living in Columbus, is a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in the 1960s and ’70s. He came across the vending permit benefit by accident.
“I recently received a small percentage disability from the VA and went online and began researching what benefits were available,” he said earlier this week. “During my research I discovered that the state of Indiana passed a law that veterans that have served overseas are eligible for, free of cost, from the auditor of the county, a license to ex-soldiers and sailors to vend, hawk and peddle goods in the county.”
Although he had no plans to go into the peddling business, Stu decided to investigate by going to the auditor’s office to see what his 20 years of service got him.
“I caused great consternation when I ... told them I’d like my license,” he said. “No one in the office at the time had ever heard of such a thing. After they had researched it, they called me and told me to come pick it up. They told me that the last one before I got mine was 8 or 9 months ago.”
Stu initially thought that the benefit was adopted by the Indiana Legislature following World War II when many veterans had returned to their homes and pursued any opportunity to make money, including going door-
to-door peddling vacuum cleaners, etc. Ironically he determined that the measure actually dates back to as early as 1895.
It’s not unusual that Stu and the folks at the auditor’s office were caught by surprise that such a benefit existed. Tom Crawford, Bartholomew County veterans service officer, said that unawareness of veterans benefits is common and that the free vending permit is only one of many opportunities available to veterans that often go unclaimed.
Even Tom, who had served 20-plus years in the U.S. Army before being appointed to his present position earlier this year, was unsure about the vending permit benefit.
“I had heard about it before, but I had really never had the opportunity to look into it,” he said.
In his defense that might be because he has deep knowledge about a lot of other benefits available to veterans that provide a great deal more than the opportunity to sell goods in Bartholomew County.
Disabled veterans are entitled to free admission in all state parks.
Some veterans who own property can be considered for tax abatements.
Veterans who rent property can receive up to a $70 discount on the excise taxes they pay for their license plates.
Veterans or their families can receive a free headstone to be placed over the grave of the veteran.
Veterans with 30 percent or greater disability rating can be eligible for some form of vocational rehabilitation.
The children of disabled veterans in Indiana are entitled to free or reduced tuition at any state college or university.
These only scratch the surface. There are also other post-secondary educational opportunities available for veterans depending on their form of enlistment.
The thing that constantly irks Tom the most, however, is that so many veterans are unaware that they are entitled to these
“Some of these folks are literally missing out on thousands of dollars in benefits that they’re entitled to,” he said. “I have met with veterans who served in World War II who didn’t know that they could have received many of these benefits years ago.”
Tom has made awareness of these benefits one of his primary missions since becoming veterans service officer, meeting one-
on-one with scores of local men and women who served in the military. Again, those meetings only scratch the surface.
“We estimate there are 5,000 or so veterans living in Bartholomew County,” he said. “The problem is in getting the word out to all of them.”
That problem is compounded by the difficulties local veterans organizations are encountering. American Legion Columbus Post 24 has been closed for several weeks, and the Wagner-Reddick Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1987 has been experiencing financial difficulties exacerbated in part by declining membership numbers.
Even discounting those factors, the audiences he can reach through the two local organizations are limited. “I’ve gone out to talk at meetings and only had an audience of a dozen or so,” he said.
For now he is relying upon events such as an upcoming Oct. 26 health forum (see inset box elsewhere on this page) at Just Friends Adult Day Services in Mill Race Center and one-on-one meetings to get the word out.
All it would take for veterans to find out what they’re entitled to is a phone call (379-1540) to set up an appointment.
And if it’s to their liking, I’m sure Tom will be happy to help a willing vet get a permit to “vend, hawk and peddle goods, wares, fruits and merchandise” in Bartholomew County.
However, I’d suggest they ask about other benefits as well.
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at email@example.com.
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