Q. What is the function of Veterans Affairs?
A. The primary duty of the Routt County Veterans Affairs service officer is to assist any resident of the state of Colorado who is a veteran or any other person who is entitled or potentially entitled to any right or benefit under federal or state laws by virtue of their veteran status or the veteran status of another person.
I provide information about veteran benefits earned for service to our country.
I do outreach with a quarterly newsletter that contains information pertaining to veterans, advertise on Channel 10 TV in Steamboat and Hayden, advertise in newspapers, provide claims assistance, cooperate with Routt County Human Services and interact with county service organization such as the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and American Legion.
Q. How many veterans are in Routt County and what percentage uses your services? What services are most widely used?
A. There are more than 1,700 veterans in Routt County, and the veteran population is growing.
About one-third are known and approximately one-half of the third have used my services.
The services range from transportation to VA medical centers in Grand Junction and Denver, VA home-loan applications, VA small-business information and applications for the VA health system.
Q. Why aren't your services better used?
A. I make the effort to advertise my services. It is up to the veteran to approach me if he or she requires some service I can provide.
A lot of individuals, when finished with their service, usually get out of whatever military branch they served in, make a left-hand turn and get on with their lives. A lot of these folks wish to forget their time in the military and get on with living.
Some people simply don't know about benefits earned or don't care. Sometimes they get interested because they have lifestyles that lead to poor health and the VA is a good deal because of the low cost of prescriptions.
Q. What is the state of funding for veteran's services?
A. The VA budget for 2004 has increased, but funding for VA services for Northwest Colorado to include a contract with one of the major hospitals on the U.S. Highway 40 corridor was not considered.
Q. What are service men and women promised when they sign up? Are those promises fulfilled?
A. There are lots of urban legends running loose in our society; one of them is health care for life for former military personnel.
This applies to retired personnel who have vested 20 years of active duty in the military and are receiving retirement pay.
This also applies to reserve or National Guard military personnel who have vested 20 years in the reserves or National Guard duty. When these reserve or guard personnel reach the age of 60, they start receiving retirement pay. An established formula dictates how much pay they will receive every month.
After an individual is discharged from the military, he or she is eligible for the Montgomery GI education program and they have access to the VA medical system.
If they are Guard or reserve personnel, they have limited access to military post exchange and commissary, "dry goods and food shopping."
Active duty retirees have unlimited access to the post exchange and commissary and travel on a space-available basis on military airlines.
They can receive health care at military base hospitals, VA medical centers or through private medical practitioners who honor military retirement health programs.
An individual discharged after four years of active duty is eligible for medical care through the VA for injuries incurred while on active duty.