Richard and Carolyn Bauer received help on a veteran's benefit issue from U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin. | Provided Photo
Richard and Carolyn Bauer received help on a veterans' benefit issue from U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin. | Provided Photo

Richard and Carolyn Bauer, 91 and 81-years-old respectively, had been struggling for about five years to apply with the Department of Veterans Affairs for 100% disability for Richard — who served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force for 23 years. He retired as a lieutenant colonel and now faces a host of medical issues.

“He didn’t start when he was younger because he felt like there were other people that deserved it more than he did. And then we started working with the (veterans service organizations) and the VA and we just weren’t getting anywhere,” Carolyn Bauer explained.

The couple, who lives in The Estates at Carpenters, mailed a box containing thousands of pages of medical records to the VA and got no response. That’s when Carolyn Bauer had enough and contacted the office of U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Lakeland, for help.

“The next day, all of a sudden, we get a response and, due to the fact that the Congressman got involved, Richard is on 100% disability,” Bauer said, explaining that the change allows them to receive additional benefits.

It is cases like the Bauers’ that has prompted Franklin to host the first-ever Vet Fest, taking place this Saturday, Nov. 18, at Tigertown to help veterans understand all the resources available to them and provide on-site support from the VA and other veterans service organizations.

Vet Fest

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

WHERE: Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd., Lakeland, FL 33805

BRING: Veterans should bring their DD-214 form and identification.

Parking and admission to Vet Fest are free.  No advance registration or sign-up is required.

The event will include enrollment and eligibility information and help, toxic exposure screening, Veterans Benefits Administration claims assistance, and education tables on women’s health, mental health and suicide prevention, environmental health registries, a clinical contact center, whole health, a homeless program, and social workers.

“What we frequently hear from veterans is they have a laundry list of phone numbers they can call, but it’s a lot harder to do it that way and if they can have a real person that can help address some of their challenges on the spot, we think we might get some better resolution,” Franklin told LkldNow. “Veterans are an important part of our constituency. Florida has one of the largest populations of veterans.”

In addition to Franklin, Florida Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Gen. James S. “Hammer” Hartsell and David Dunning, the executive director of the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, are scheduled to attend.

Other representatives from the James A. Haley VA Hospital will also be on hand to provide support and services.

Franklin added that veterans who don’t live close to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa or the Bill Young Veterans Medical Center in Bay Pines sometimes feel out of the loop.

“A lot of times those veterans feel disconnected from the resources that are available, so we just wanted to get them all together in one place,” Franklin said. “Veterans enjoy being around other veterans. Hopefully it’ll be fun to be with other fellow veterans.”

The campaign medals and ribbons of Ramon Dobles, who fought in every major European campaign during WWII. | Provided Photo
The medals and ribbons of Ramon Dobles, who fought in every major European campaign during WWII. | Provided Photo

Another issue Franklin’s office helped to iron out recently concerned obtaining the replacement medals of Ray Dobles’ father, the late Ramon Dobles, a World War II veteran.  After LkldNow requested help, Franklin’s office was able to provide Dobles with a replacement set of medals that Ramon Dobles earned during WWII, when he participated in every major campaign in the European theater.

“We got Ray’s father’s medals from Scott Franklin just in time for Veteran’s Day,” said Ray’s wife Myriam, showing off the shadow box they created with a photo of Dobles’ father, along with the campaign medals and ribbons. They include:

  • The European, African, Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze stars (indicating three major battles).
  • The World War II Medal.
  • The American Defense Medal with a Foreign Service bar.
  • The American Campaign Medal.
  • The Good Conduct Medal.

Franklin said he is hoping to help as many veterans as possible who are having issues like the Bauers and Dobles.

“We probably won’t be able to completely fix every issue there, but at least get the ball started,” Franklin said, before running off for a vote on the House floor. “And then our staff, our team, will certainly be ready to assist and follow up with anybody that needs additional help beyond what they can do that day.”

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Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at or 863-272-9250.

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