Scotty Allison: More than 3,600 veterans call Beltrami County home
Recently, I have been getting ready to review the status of our county veterans with the Beltrami County commissioners. I think you'll find some of the facts I've been compiling interesting.
Recently, I have been getting ready to review the status of our county veterans with the Beltrami County commissioners. I think you’ll find some of the facts I’ve been compiling interesting.
According to the U.S. Census, American Community Survey 2009-2013, there are 3,626 veterans living in Beltrami County. These veterans receive more than $26.9 million per year in Veterans Administration benefits such as medical care, education or compensation for service-connected conditions.
The veterans in Beltrami County that we actively manage out of this office are receiving more than $15 million in direct compensation and pension benefits per year.
A total of 52 percent of the veterans that we work with are combat veterans, including 15 female veterans.
Most of our combat veterans are from the Vietnam War closely followed by Gulf War veterans.
In this county, we have four veterans who served during all of the following war periods: World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
As a result of when they served, Beltrami County has an older veteran’s population than the national average.
More than 55 percent of our veterans are older than 65. In 2013, this percentage was approximately 45 percent. If you are thinking that a Veterans Home located here in Bemidji and serving Northern Minnesota veterans would be beneficial to our aging veteran population, you would be correct.
Speaking of helping older veterans in Beltrami County, there is an organization called Adult Day Services that does just that.
What they do is provide respite for veteran caregivers. Services provided include transportation, nutritional meals and snacks, a registered nurse on staff, exercise programs and structured activities and socialization opportunities.
They are doing a great job for our veterans and the respite that is provided to their spouses.
If you are interested in this program, you can call (218) 751-1324 for more details.
In our state, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) runs a program to provide dental, optical, subsistence benefits (such as personal needs, shelter assistance, and utilities) and special needs (on a case-by-case basis) to eligible low-income veterans and their families.
Additionally, the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) also provides assistance 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 as they can be very beneficial, and we believe are under-utilized by our county veterans and their families.
The state of Minnesota recently streamlined procedures to help veteran-owned small businesses compete for state contracts.
The Minnesota Department of Administration has a new state-level certification process that allows Minnesota veteran-owned small businesses to receive preferences in state procurement and construction bids.
Previously, in order to get veterans preference in Minnesota, you had to go through the VA federal certification process.
This new certification process is part of a greater effort to streamline the process for not only veteran-owned businesses but for women, and minority-owned businesses as well.
This office was awarded a grant from the Beltrami County Consolidated Conservation Fund to assist veterans and their families living in the northern part of our county.
This area is the townships and unorganized territories primarily located around the cities of Kelliher, Waskish and the Fourtown area near Grygla.
The objective of this grant is to provide essential support to veterans and their families during times of need or crisis.
This includes transportation support to medical appointments, energy assistance during the winter months, and help with minor home repairs.
Specifically, in regard to home repairs, the grant will allow up to $250 per visit to either fix a problem or get a detailed estimate so we can attempt to use other state programs to help.
Please remember, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 23, at the Bemidji National Guard Armory in Bemidji, we will again be having a Veterans “Standdown.” Free services available include meals, clothing distribution, haircuts, employment assistance, VA benefits claims processing, and many other services.
If you are a veteran or a family member, please stop by and see if there is anything we can help you with.
Don’t forget, if you have any questions regarding veterans’ benefits please call the County Veterans Service Office at 218-333-4177/4178.
Scotty Allison is the Beltrami County Veterans Service Officer.