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Jackson County to offer guidance for veterans

POSTED: May 3, 2009 12:15 a.m.

Navigating through the process of applying for federal assistance and benefits can be a bit tricky, which is why the Jackson County government is looking to establish a Veteran’s Information and Referral Office.

"Many times, a veteran — especially some just released from active duty — will not know where to go get answers about benefits, how to apply, where to go, what the entitlements are, etc.," said Len Bernat, Jackson County purchasing manager who is heading up the initiative.

"The (Jackson County) Board of Commissioners is committed to helping all veterans by providing one central location where everyone who has ever served this country in our armed forces can come to get information and be referred to the right assistance organization the first time."

According to Bernat, a two-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Jackson County office would be the second one of its kind in Georgia.

Although the project is being headed up by Jackson County officials, the office would benefit non-Jackson County residents as well.

"Anyone who comes to the (office) seeking assistance will be helped," Bernat said.

Creating an office to assist veterans is a much needed addition to the local government, Bernat says. Ideally he would like to open the office by the end of the month. There’s just one problem: shortage of staff.

"Volunteers will be doing all of the work. They will greet each veteran when they visit and provide assistance with making appointments or completing paperwork to allow the Veteran’s Administration to fulfill (its) obligation to our veterans," Bernat said.

To volunteer at the veteran’s office, individuals don’t have to possess many special skills, just a willingness to help.

"Once I have my core group of volunteers, I will arrange for training what will be provided by (the Veterans Health Administration) Seamless Transition Team. (The transition team) will also work directly with the volunteers during the initial office days to guide them through information and referral process," Bernat said.

"I would love to have at least two or three (volunteers) to get started, but I would take one dedicated person who is committed to working hard for our nation’s heroes."



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