County's new VSO on board
Hubbard County's new Veterans Service Officer is off and running, only three days on the job.
And Gregory Remus may be a poster child for the Park Rapids Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife have already bought a home on Portage Lake, which they will close on next week, and their youngest daughter, a standout cross-country runner and track star, is getting ready to enroll at Park Rapids Area High School next fall.
His two oldest children are students at UND.
"We chose this town because my parents live on Leech Lake," he said. "We like this town and this school district."
Meanwhile, Remus is immersed in helping veterans obtain benefits. He's been seeing up to four a day since he walked in the door.
He said so far the reaction has been warm but a bit wary. He understands.
"They're feeling me out to see what I know about veterans affairs," he said.
The answer will surprise them. Remus was selected because he was an advocate for the Disabled American Veterans in Fargo, where he worked extensively with the Fargo Veterans Administration.
"I'm sensitive to vets' needs," said the retired Army lieutenant colonel. "I want to make sure I live up to their expectations."
Right now, Remus said he will "assess what's going on," then would like to get out into the community to talk to service groups, the hospital, funeral homes, social workers and other entities that may have regular contact with veterans.
He also wants vets to know about new presumptions that have been issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with the last six months, expanding benefits for Vietnam vets and for vets of all branches of military service who have been honorably discharged.
One is that if you are a vet with ALS, commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease, there is a veterans' benefit because the disease is presumed to have been military related. That benefit is available to all vets honorably discharged from the service.
Another new initiative for Vietnam-era veterans stepped foot in that Southeastern Asia country, the VA presumes if those vets suffer from certain respiratory cancers and some heart ailments, those illnesses are presumed to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used widely during the war,
Remus said he wants vets, dependants or spouses to come in if they have questions about those new benefits.
"Half of our Vietnam vets have died," he said. "It really took a toll."