“I’m typically the first stop for veterans seeking benefits.”
By Brandi Makuski
A proposal that would have allowed counties to eliminate their veterans service officers has been halted.
The proposal was being circulated for co-sponsorship by Senator Van Wanggard (Racine) and Representative Ken Skowronski (Franklin) would make having a County Veterans Service Officer optional for counties and eliminate the authority of CVSOs to perform various services for veterans.
Currently, counties are required to employ a CVSO under state law; the bill would have changed language in state statutes from saying counties “shall” have a CVSO to counties “may” have one.
Wanggard said after concerns from veterans and advocates during testimony heard in the state capital this week, he’s withdrawn the proposal and plans to create a task force to further study a revised draft of the legislation, which he said is designed to allow smaller counties to consolidate services.
“I think it’s a great victory for Wisconsin veterans,” said Mike Clements, the Portage Co. CVSO. “It’s going to be up to us to remain vigilant before there are any attempts to put legislation through at the last minute.”
Clements said the CVSO position is in many ways a lifeline for veterans when they leave the service, because many will need ongoing treatment for physical and mental ailments, as well as post traumatic stress disorder, and need assistance filing paperwork and making appointments.
“I’m typically the first stop for veterans seeking benefits, but I also visit veterans and survivors in assisted living facilities, people who can’t make it to my office, to help with their claims,” Clements said.
Clements said veterans become the responsibility of his office “the day they get off active duty”, though he often receives calls from active duty soldiers to get information prior to leaving the service.
“It’s a real mixture of younger veterans, middle-aged veterans and older veterans who we work with,” he said.
But Clements added it’s not always the veterans themselves who ask for help. Many, he said, feel undeserving of veteran’s benefits for any number of reasons.
“There are many benefits for veterans who never served in combat,” Clements said. “The benefits I deal with are earned benefits; they’ve earned them before they ever come into my office. Just because they didn’t serve in combat, doesn’t mean they aren’t eligible.”
Clements said friends and family members concerned about a veteran can also contact his office, and Clements- a veteran himself- will reach out as needed.
Clements can be reached at (715) 346-1311 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.