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Scotty Allison: What are you doing to protect your benefits?

If you have been reading or listening to the news lately there has been much discussion about how to cut the nation's deficit/balance the budget. Already the Active, Reserve and National Guard forces are experiencing significant budget cuts. So far, for the most part, the political leadership in our nation continues to support Veterans. However this could change in the future as different areas in our government compete for reduced amounts of funding. So what are you doing to protect your hard earned benefits? Do you belong to a Veterans Service Organization such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, etc.? Remember there is always strength in numbers. Do you contact your local, state and national politicians when you see something out there that concerns you about veterans' rights/benefits/issues?

Much of what we have concerning veterans benefits was only provided after some tough legal and political fights. Look at Agent Orange in regards to Vietnam veterans. How long were they denied benefits even though many of them were sick and some ultimately died from the effects of those chemicals? The fight regarding Agent Orange is not over as any "Blue Water" Navy veteran from Vietnam can attest to. What about Gulf War Syndrome, burn pits, TBI, PTSD, Camp Lejeune, depleted uranium, radiation exposure, and asbestos to name a few on-going veterans concerns? How can you help keep the right focus on our veterans and their struggles?

Recently the President's FY 2014 budget proposed changing how Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs) in regards to military retirement, VA disabilities, and Social Security benefits could be calculated. Using a formula called Chained Consumer Price Index, what you can expect is that COLAs in the future will be smaller than they are today if this system is adopted. At first, it will probably not be a lot of money lost for each beneficiary but over time it will certainly have a larger cumulative effect on that individual's benefits. For any individual who may be receiving more than one federal benefit the effect will be even greater. Just wanted to make sure you are aware of this possible change.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Office will be coming to Bemidji on October 3, 2013 2:00-3:00 pm (location still to be determined). They will be here to discuss statutory changes relative to Minnesota veterans and any issues or concerns you may have as a veteran.

Remember the Veterans "Standdown" which will be held on September 25th from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM at the National Guard Armory in Bemidji. If you are a veteran/family member please stop by.

We continue to encourage all veterans or their family members to contact us about any potential benefits. Every week we meet clients who for various reasons have never contacted any Veterans Service Office and now are seeking assistance for an older veteran. To say that this can be challenging would be an understatement. So please come in and the sooner the better.

Don't forget if you have any questions regarding veteran benefits please call us at 218-333-4177/4178.

Scotty Allison, Beltrami County Veterans Service Officer