BEMIDJI — After several months of on-the-job learning, Robert Shane Gustafson has officially taken over as the Beltrami County Veterans Services Officer.
Gustafson was sworn in at the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, October 19. The oath was read by Gustafson’s predecessor, Scotty Allison, who signaled his intention to retire in 2020 and worked with county staff to develop a hiring and transition process. plan.
In early April, commissioners approved the hiring of Gustafson for the position, who was one of 20 applicants. Gustafson began working in the office on April 22, with Allison still working as a lead to help with training.
Gustafson comes to the post after 13 years working for the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office. Born in Minot, Gustafson grew up in Wyoming and joined the military after high school, serving in the U.S. Army from 1994 to 1999.
After his release, Gustafson attended design school in Tempe, Arizona to study computer graphics. However, Gustafson joined the military in 2001 after 9/11 and served until 2004, which included a deployment to Iraq.
After his service, Gustafson earned a degree in criminal justice at BSU and began working in law enforcement. In his new role, Gustafson will provide advice and assistance to veterans and their family members regarding federal and state benefit programs.
“Thank you for this great opportunity,” Gustafson said. “I’m really looking forward to it, working with veterans in our community.”
Before the swearing-in ceremony, Gustafson and Allison addressed the commissioners with an update on veteran statistics in the county. According to the report, 2,967 veterans live in Beltrami County.
The number of veterans in the county has declined over the past decade. In 2010, 3,435 veterans lived in Beltrami County. Since 2018, however, the number has been consistently below 3,000.
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Only 20 of Minnesota’s 87 counties have a larger veteran population than Beltrami. In 2020, Beltrami County veterans received $36.18 million in assistance. The amount of support Beltrami County veterans have received has steadily increased from 2010 to 2020 by $15.9 million, or 44 percent.
In 2010, county veterans received $20.2 million and in 2015 they received $30.06 million. The majority of veterans’ benefits are provided for compensation or pension purposes. Another important benefit is the support veterans receive for medical care.
In 2020, $19.7 million of the $36.18 million was spent on compensation and pension services, while $15.3 million was spent on medical needs. Other benefits for veterans include education and insurance.
In total, the Beltrami County Veterans Services Office has 990 active compensation cases and 137 active pension cases for veterans and widows. The majority of these veterans, 487, served in peacetime, followed by 302 who served in the Vietnam War.
The county also has records for 119 people who served in the Iraq War, 29 in the Gulf War, 27 in the Afghanistan War, 14 in the Korean War and five in World War II. Additionally, the county has compensation records for six who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as one who served in the wars in Korea and Vietnam.