Veteran services

Southwest Metro Veterans Services Aims to Meet the Needs of Veterans | News from Chanhassen

County Veterans Services offices offer a wide variety of aids and benefits. Whether it’s disability compensation, retirement, dental and optical assistance or even door-to-door transport for medical appointments.

When veterans contact the office seeking a service it does not provide, staff members work to connect them with other community organizations, nonprofits, or other groups, said Scott County Veterans Affairs director Jerry Brua.

“If we’re not able to help them and we know someone who potentially could, we definitely refer them,” Brua said.

The Veterans Services Office is there to help veterans, Brua said. Although rare, veterans are sometimes unaware of the benefits and services available to them. When a veteran provides the office with a DD214, the document issued upon a service member’s retirement, separation, or release from active duty, staff members can go from there and see what benefits they have right.

UNIQUE

One misconception Brua has noticed is that people think “a veteran is a veteran.” Everyone’s situation is unique, Brua said. Even when people serve at the same time, it doesn’t mean they have the same experience or the same period of service, he added.

“Everyone is unique just because your buddy gets benefits, you may not qualify for those benefits, or vice versa. Just because your buddy got turned down doesn’t mean you’re not eligible,” Brua said.

Chaska’s Joshua Simer echoed Brua’s point. Simer is a colonel in the Minnesota Army National Guard and works full-time for a fiber optic manufacturer. Although veterans are a distinct group that tend to bond with one another, they are not all the same, he said.

“We are not a monolith,” Simer said.

Simer began his ROTC military service at Harvard University in 1993 and graduated in 1997. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry and served seven years on active duty, which included a deployment in the Middle East and two and a half years in South Korea. .

In 2004, Simer transferred from active duty to the Minnesota National Guard and has served ever since. This included two more deployments to the Middle East and command of a tank and mechanized infantry battalion. His current assignment is as Garrison Commander at Camp Ripley, Minnesota.

Simer occasionally visits the Carver County Veterans Services office when he needs certain documents, verification of veteran status, or advice on another organization to contact for help. He has always been satisfied with the service and the veterans duty officer is active, friendly and engaged, he said.

Simer has also used several other veteran benefits, such as home loan assistance, job search assistance, and assistance transferring his GI Bill benefits to his children.

With so many different organizations offering resources to veterans, whether government, nonprofit or community-based, it can be confusing to know where to go to get help for a specific need, Simer said. That’s where the Carver County Veterans Services Office comes in, he added.

That overwhelming feeling is a real thing, said Carver County Veterans Services Officer Dan Tengwall. Another obstacle, according to the office, is that some veterans think they don’t deserve the benefits.

Tengwall pointed out that a great way for veterans to help not only themselves, but others, is to go through the process to access benefits. We want people in the community to get to know the office and get our message across, he said. The best way for a veteran to help someone is to understand the process themselves and become a great resource, he added.

“Veterans have a common value of helping each other … We are trained to look left and right and help our fellow combatants or shipmates or fellow Marines or airmen,” Tengwall said. “When we take off the uniform, we don’t lose that desire to help others.”

There is a common bond of understanding, selfless service and willingness to help that we share, he added.

START THE PROCESS

The Carver County Veterans Services office offers many similar services to the Scott County office. The office encourages veterans to begin the process soon after their release. It’s harder to have conversations about injuries or health issues when they’re in their 50s or 60s, Tengwall said.

“Maybe they were pilots or aircraft mechanics and they had hearing loss, maybe they were in the navy and they… had some kind of musculoskeletal injury,” he said. Tengwall. “We want to capture this information. The best time to do this is when they go out.

Not only does the office have the ability to refer veterans to other organizations, but it also partners with many groups. Engagement with local groups is a high priority for our office, Tengwall said. A few of these organizations include local VFW American Legion posts, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, and the Veterans Council.

People sometimes assume that veterans services offices have a magic list of everyone who has served, Tengwall said, adding that they only get this information when veterans give it to them. It’s important for veterans to communicate with the office so that when something is needed, we can respond more quickly and efficiently, he said.

Mental health is an important issue for the veteran community as well as the general public. Tengwall emphasized that sanity is a strength, not a weakness. It’s doing the work and taking care of yourself, he says. He spoke for himself about how the VA health care system helped his own mental health. Staff members listen and try to help veterans with issues, whether they have immediate needs or long-term care.