The Isanti County Veterans Service Office does a lot to help area veterans, their dependents or survivors. Veterans Services Director Dan Meyer shares about the challenges facing veterans today and how the Veterans Service Office can help.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing veterans today and how can they be addressed?
One major issue that we are working with many veterans on are the environmental and chemical hazards that have caused severe long-term medical conditions. One of the more recognized issues associated with this is the exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam, Thailand, within the territorial waters of Vietnam, and other storage sites throughout the world. We are also beginning to see the effects of burn pits and other chemical exposure to service members returning from the Middle East. These are only a few of the several different hazardous exposures, and if someone believes they were exposed to hazardous materials we suggest they come and see us so that we can generate a claim with them.
In what ways does your office provide advocacy?
We work with veterans on many different issues and concerns. In addition to helping veterans and their families submit disability claims, we also assist with signing up for medical benefits through the VA. We have developed many strong partnerships with different organizations, dating back to before my time, with Jim Rostberg. We are continuing to work with these organizations to assist veterans as they
need help with housing, financial hardship, furniture, large unexpected expenses and gas, to name a few. We also work with veterans involved in the criminal justice system to ensure that they have access to programs to work through recovery, mental health, and family concerns.
What are the common misconceptions about your office and services available to veterans?
One common misconception that we see is some veterans might believe that claims are adjudicated at our level. Our office is a function of county government, and claims are reviewed and decided at the state and federal level.
We are here to assist veterans and their dependents with applications or entitled benefits. We get just as frustrated as veterans with the decision-making process, how long it takes to hear back on claims, and what some of the outcomes are of those decisions. We will do everything we can to help in the process, and a majority of the time we see delays at the federal level due to the large number of claims being submitted nationwide.
What do you think prevents veterans from utilizing services?
One barrier that we see is transportation. We recognize that not everyone has the means to travel, and are more than willing to do home visits if there is no transportation available.
What do you most want veterans to understand about what the Isanti County Veterans Service Office offers?
We work with veterans and their dependents to assist them in gaining access to benefits that they are entitled to. We appreciate everyone’s service and want to do what we can in providing assistance. We have an excellent team in the office and a very supportive community.