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VETS VIEWS: Veterans successfully lobby to reinstate marker program

Greg Remus

Positive news for veterans! The Bronze Star Marker Program is back! After some hard lobbying by veterans, veterans' service organizations and county veterans service officers, the new Commissioner of Veterans Affairs announced reinstatement of the program for the next biennium.

In the past, this office received the bronze star markers from Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and distributed them for placement at the graveside of every recently deceased veteran. Volunteers and veterans service organizations placed the bronze star markers just prior to Memorial Day honoring the men and women who gave so much for their country.

Last fall, the previous Commissioner of Veterans Affairs for the State of Minnesota, decided to end the program. The cost for Hubbard County veterans to continue the program would have been approximately $1500 annually. Most of us agreed this was another benefit being taking away from veterans.

I'd like to publicly thank our new Commissioner, (Larry Shellito) for reconsidering this issue and reinstating the program. I know many of you in the community were aware of the temporary elimination of this program and were seeking ways to ensure it would continue. I thank you for your efforts and support.

On another note, you may have seen a motor home parked at the American Legion April 20.

The van is the mobile Vet Center van used for confidential counseling of veterans and family members of veterans. The van will be back on May 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the American Legion.

The public is invited to visit the van and see the VA's state of the art mobile counseling center. If you think you may be entitled to this option I'd encourage you to visit with the counselor or stop into my office. We have not had the van in Park Rapids prior to the April visit but we do have a Vet Center counselor in Park Rapids every first and third Wednesday of each month.

This counseling began only a few months ago. He primarily counsels veterans and family members of veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD in group and individual settings.

The Vet Center Program was established by Congress in 1979 out of the recognition that a significant number of Vietnam era vets were still experiencing readjustment problems.

Vet Centers are community based and part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. You are eligible for Vet Center readjustment counseling if you, or a family member, served in any combat zone and received a military campaign ribbon (Vietnam, Southwest Asia, OEF, OIF, etc.) you are eligible for Vet Center services.

The goal of the Vet Center program is to provide a broad range of counseling, outreach, and referral services to eligible veterans in order to help them make a satisfying post-war readjustment to civilian life. The family members of all veterans listed above are eligible for Vet Center services as well. On August 5, 2003 VA authorized Vet Centers to furnish bereavement counseling services to surviving parents, spouses, children and siblings of service members who die of any cause while on active duty, to include federally activated Reserve and National Guard personnel. 

Services provided by the Vets Centers include: readjustment counseling (transition from military to civilian life), individual counseling, group counseling, marital and family counseling, bereavement counseling, medical referrals, assistance in applying for VA Benefits, employment counseling, guidance and referral, alcohol/ drug assessments, information and referral to community resources, military sexual trauma counseling & referral, outreach and community education.

Vet Centers are located in Duluth, St. Paul and Fargo.

These services have changed the lives of veterans helping them improve quality of life where it has been affected by a combat stressor. The problem often is the veteran must go there to the VA to receive the services. In this case, this is one of the few times the VA can bring their services to us.

And remember I am now at the Lakeport Town Hall in Laporte from 9 a.m. to noon and the Lake George Town Hall from 1 to 3 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. Please feel free to visit me at those locations.

You can contact me at the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office at 201 Fair Ave, Park Rapids, 732-3561.