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Scotty Allison: Claims backlog takes step forward, but expect some delays

This is a heads-up to all veterans regarding service-connected claims.

You have probably been reading and hearing about the large claims backlog at the Veterans Administration. There is a lot of pressure being applied by veterans, service organizations and political leaders to reduce the backlog and some headway is being made. However, a recent decision by the VA to transfer older claims files to Fargo, N.D., from several regional VA sites will certainly impact processing time of claims being adjudicated there. Fargo, in my opinion, has done an excellent job in processing claims but for the near future, we can probably expect an additional two- to three-month delay in processing time on all service-connected claims.

In our state, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs runs a program to provide dental, optical, subsistence benefits, such as personal needs, shelter assistance, and utilities, and special needs to eligible low-income veterans and their families. This is a great program as the optical and dental benefits can be accessed annually, if you qualify.

The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans also provides assistant to veterans and their families who are homeless or experiencing other life crises. Services they provide include rental/mortgage, utility, transportation and food assistance, employment help, sobriety aftercare and legal counseling.

Please do not hesitate to ask us about both these state programs.

On Sept. 25, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the National Guard Armory in Bemidji, the Veterans Supporter Community and the MACV will once again conduct a Veterans “Standdown.” Free services available include meals, clothing distribution, haircuts, employment assistance, VA benefits claims processing and many others. If you are a veteran or a family member of a veteran, please stop by and see if there is anything we can help you with.

The VA recently launched a new hotline, (855) VA-WOMEN “to receive and respond to questions from veterans, their families and caregivers about the many VA services and resources available to women veterans.”

If you are a recently honorably discharged veteran and have been out less than a year, national retail chain wants to hear from you. Wal-Mart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon recently stated, “Veterans have a record of performance under pressure. They’re quick learners and team players. They are leaders with discipline, training, and a passion for service. There is a seriousness and sense of purpose that the military instills, and we need it today more than ever.” The retail giant expects to hire more than 100,000 veterans in the next five years.

We continue to recommend that all returning veterans to Beltrami County record their original DD214s at the Records Office located in the Country Administration Building. This will assure that you can get a copy of your DD214 should you need it for VA or other purposes.

If you have any questions regarding veteran benefits please call the County Veterans Service Office at (2180 333-4177/4178.

— Scotty Allison is the Beltrami County Veterans Service Officer.

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