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2013-01-30 / Calendar

Spotlight on: Lapeer County Veterans Affairs

LAPEER COUNTY — Great changes are taking place within the Lapeer County Veterans Affairs Committee — changes meant to ensure benefits for every one of the estimated 7,193 veterans currently residing in Lapeer County.

When the Veterans Affairs millage was passed last November, county residents secured more than $250,000 in yearly funding for the office. That funding, according to the programs director Debra Worden, will be used to reach out to more veterans in Lapeer County.

“We’re here to ensure that the veterans in this county and their interests are looked after,” she said. “And that’s the whole point.”

Worden also said that the services offered by the VA can be the difference between a veteran being denied or granted benefits. The federal VA releases benefits, such as monetary, health and other allowances to eligible veterans, but only if they meet a very specific criteria.

Worden said that in many cases approval is based on the representation of evidences, which takes a lot of experience in dealing with such application processes.

For example, she said, a veteran believing that their hearing loss can be attributed to active duty with artillery isn’t enough for the federal VA to approve their case. Helping local veterans properly file applications is a main service at the county VA.

“We involve ourselves in the specific strategy to be successful in the outcome of claims,” she said. “We can pretty much accurately predict the outcome of dollar benefits for our veterans.”

And one of the greatest benefits to the millage approval is the ability to reach more veterans and offer them this advanced service. Many veterans through the years, said Worden, have missed out on life changing benefits because of poor service resulting in case denial.

“In my book that’s not good enough when part of those people are people that could have had better results,” she said. “If we had reached out to them earlier their lives could have been different… and that’s sad.”

But one of the changes she’s striving to implement could change the lives of hundreds, even thousands, of veterans. Worden hopes to launch an on demand video source where anyone can link to a website and get information directly from her on common, critical topics.

“It will be info they would normally get in a one on one session with me, but they’ll be able to go to a website and watch a (pre-filmed) video,” she said. There are 24 programs scheduled for posting over the next year.

Worden said keeping up with the changing pace of communicating information is critical, which is what spurred the idea to institute the video on demand program.

And the more knowledgeable veterans can be of resources, the more benefits Worden believes will be available.

For non-veteran residents, the millage is beneficial for the dollars it will bring into the community through local spending.

Worden’s father was a Vietnam veteran, and her inspiration for making sure county veterans receive top care.

“I don’t want to just help them with a prescription (or other benefits),” she said. “I want to lighten the load in all ways possible.”

The county VA offers the training necessary to help veterans receive the maximum benefits they are due, and between the state, county, and congressional levels have increased received benefits to more than 21 million dollars in 2011. This number has risen from just over six million in 2005.

“I believe it’s time we stand up for our veterans and get serious when it comes to their benefits,” she said. “Their lives are now in our hands and it’s time to do it right.”

Coming soon to will be “Front and Center With Debra Worden,” the on demand video programming designed to provide vital information to veterans.

For more information or for veteran assistance, contact 810-667-0256.

The office is located at 287 W. Nepessing St., Ste. 2., Lapeer.

Cheryl Burrough serves as counselor for the committee.

— Casey Johnson

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