81-year-old finally uses veteran benefits, work continues to help others

Housing Summit being held Saturday

SAN ANTONIO – The little house on San Antonio’s West Side has great curb appeal. It also signifies something Robert Garcia wishes he knew sooner, a case of what you don't know, could cost you thousands.

“It's a small house, but it's comfortable," says Garcia.

At 81, Robert Garcia is a new home buyer. He has been busy scraping, mowing and planting.

"I planted those rose bushes the other day," says Garcia.

As he shows off his new purchase he admits one of the biggest reasons he wanted a home, the freedom to do what he wanted, on the ground or on the grill.

"Cooked some ribs and sausage, chicken, it came out good," says Garcia.

This home is a first for this Air Force veteran. This is the first time he has actually used a VA loan. The big reason he didn't use one earlier? He says he didn't know about it. It is estimated that there are millions of military veterans and their families that are missing out on benefits to which they are entitled.

"There’s lots of information that's out there, like that, that's not getting to the people that need it, that deserve it," says Art Ramirez of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals, or VAREP, a nonprofit that helps veterans get housing benefits.

And it's not just information about VA loans that vets like Garcia are missing out on, extra benefits, reduced property taxes, credit counseling are all things that will be covered in a veterans housing summit this weekend.

"We invite all current, former military and their spouses to come to our event and to check it out, come learn with us, let us educate you, let our volunteers and our non-profit help educate you and make a difference in your lives," says Ramirez.

Art Ramirez and others from the non-profit VAREP, don't make a dime off of helping veterans like Garcia, but they do get something else, the joy of serving those, who've served our country.

"I have to stay busy you know what I'm saying, I can't be sitting down watching TV all the time," Garcia said.

The Veterans Housing Summit is Saturday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., the address is the 4800 block of Fredericksburg Road. If you want more information about VAREP, click here.

About the Author:

Steve Spriester started at KSAT in 1995 as a general assignments reporter. Now, he anchors the station's top-rated 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.