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Veterans Views: Recapping veterans benefits

Gregory Remus began work April 8 and has already immersed himself in his job seeing veterans. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Did you know there are 381,000 veterans residing in Minnesota? And the majority of these veterans are wartime era veterans;

34,400 served during World War II, 45,100 during Korea, 140,000 during Vietnam and 69,100 during the Gulf War era.

If you are a honorably discharged Vietnam era veteran who served in the country of Vietnam, you should know you are at higher risk (as compared to our overall population) of being diagnosed with AL amyloidosis, B cell leukemias, chloracne, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, diabetes mellitus type II, ischemic heart disease, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Parkinson's disease, porphoria cutanea tarda, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers and soft tissue sarcoma.

B cell leukemia, ischemic heart disease and Parkinson's are conditions recently added to the list.

If you are diagnosed with one of these conditions the Veterans Administration will presume it was due to exposure to Agent Orange when assigned in Vietnam. You should then contact this office to apply for compensation and/or medical treatment.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is a vast organization that has evolved to serve veterans in many ways.

One such service is the processing of claims for compensation and pension.

The St Paul Regional Office, as of January 2011, had 764,000 claims pending and 39 percent were over 125 days old. As of November 2011, St Paul had 873,000 claims pending and 62 percent were over 125 days old.

This is consistent with the national average. (The 125 days old is significant because it is a goal of the VA to process these claims within 125 days)

There is no question there has been a significant increase in the number of claims. This is probably due to the new presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure and due to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also with more claims comes longer processing times. I expect the processing time to shorten since the VA has increased their staff and in time they will become more efficient to rate claims.

Medal replacement

Do you know a veteran or a next of kin of a veteran who lost their medals that were awarded for active service? You are authorized to receive one set of replacement medals, decorations and awards. You can request this replacement set by submitting a SF 180 "Request Pertaining to Military Records" to the appropriate branch of the military in which the veteran served.

New career program

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced an innovative new program to help veterans find appropriate careers within the department.

The program was launched on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. VA for Vets is a high-tech approach to recruiting, hiring, retaining and reintegrating veterans into the VA workforce.

The program offers career coaching and state-of-the-art online tools for veterans seeking jobs or career development opportunities.

The online Career Center includes a tool that translates military skills into civilian language; a résumé builder that tailors veterans' resumés so they can more easily compete for open positions in the VA and avatar-based technology that connects deployed service members back to the VA during their operational missions.

At your service

As always the purpose of the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office is to provide assistance and support to eligible veterans, their dependents and survivors in obtaining benefits through the State and Federal Departments of Veterans Affairs, and to provide benefit counseling, claims service, referral and assistance in a variety of other programs.

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

Don't forget every third Thursday of each month, I will be at the Lakeport Town Hall in Laporte from 9 a.m. to noon.