The Role of a County Veteran's Service Officer

Maybe you served during WWII and suffered a knee injury, or possibly you were shot in the arm while serving during the Korean War.  You were treated for your injuries at the time, but many years later health- related problems have surfaced.  As a veteran serving in Vietnam you were exposed to Agent Orange and are now suffering from prostate cancer, or possibly diabetes mellitus type II.  Or, you are a returning Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom(OIF/OEF) veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a roadside bombing, or maybe you are a returning OIF/OEF veteran who, fortunately, did not endure any trauma, but need direction in obtaining educational benefits under the GI bill. Health benefits Veterans and family members who served on active duty or resided at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between Aug. 1, 1953 and Dec. 31,1987 may be eligible for VA health benefits for 15 conditions. Is there any help available to you through the Veterans Administration?  Where do you begin to seek assistance and obtain guidance in pursuing benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs?  The answer:  Your local County Veterans Service Office. 

If you have never registered with your County Veterans Service Agency, the first step is to call your local Agency for an appointment, and bring in your military discharge (DD214 or “Report of Military Separation”),  as this document is required in order to receive any VA benefits.  If you have lost or misplaced this document, they can assist you obtaining a new discharge from the National Personnel Records Center.

Under New York State Law, every County is required to have a County Veterans Service Agency.  The agency consists of a Service Officer and support staff.  The County Veterans Service Officer has a compassionate understanding of the problems which confront veterans, widows, widowers, and dependent children.   Through monthly meetings and annual training, Veterans Service Officers are aware of laws passed by the U.S. Congress in the interests of veterans and their dependents, and they are familiar with the rules and regulations adopted by the Department of Veterans Affairs to clarify and implement those laws.  County Veterans Service Officers are well-versed in state laws as well, from veterans’ real property tax exemptions to NY State blind annuity benefits.  

County Veterans Service Officers also act as liaisons between veterans and their families in obtaining benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.   Service officers assist veterans in filing service-connected disability claims with the VA.  They also assist veterans in obtaining benefits relative to vocational rehabilitation, VA home loans, education, insurance, burial benefits and non-service connected pension benefits.   Are you a veteran of a wartime period, or the widow of a veteran of a wartime period about to enter a nursing home?  They may be able to assist you in obtaining a non-service connected pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Basically, the Service Officer can take care of veterans’ needs from their date of discharge until their date of death, and in many instances a Service Officer provides assistance to eligible dependents long after the veteran passes.

Your County Service Officer can also acts as a liaison between eligible veterans and their families in obtaining care at the VA Medical Centers.  Whether you are a military retiree or the spouse of a military retiree, a family member of an active duty reservist, a widow of a veteran who died of a service-connected disability or a dependent of a veteran who was 100% service-connected at the time of his or her death, medical benefits may be available to you, and a Service Officer will assist you in obtaining medical care.

Finally, the ultimate job of a County Veterans Service Officer is to simplify what can be a very complex undertaking; that of obtaining eligible benefits from the Veterans Administration.  As a veteran you served your country honorably, and your local County Veterans Service Officer wants to say “thank you” by ensuring you obtain all of the benefits to which you or your family members are entitled.  If you are not aware of the location or phone number of your local County Veterans Service Agency, please call my office, Genesee County Veterans Service Agency, at (585) 815-7905 and we will gladly provide you with this information.

Serving those who served,

William R. Joyce, Service Officer