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County Veterans Service Officer – Part 2

I am going to start this second installment with a brief overview. CVSO is a state-mandated position which must be filled by a Veteran. CVSOs advise, assist, and advocate for Veterans, their families, and surviving dependents with federal, state, and local Veterans benefits. The services provided are free of charge which also means your CVSO is not allowed to receive gifts. You have probably read the first article three times, so I will move on to the new information.

I would like to dispel a few myths. CVSOs are not VA employees. The name or title, County Veterans Service Officer, is the first clue that we are county employees. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a federal entity, and the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) is a state entity. CVSOs are affiliated with or accredited by VA and MDVA, but do not work for or hold a position within these higher echelons of government. We have no special pull or sway over the federal or state departments.

CVSOs do not have a list of secret phone numbers that circumvent the automated systems or being placed on hold. We use the same publicly listed and accessible numbers as anyone else. I have been placed on hold for more than an hour waiting to speak with a VA representative. I have had to navigate the seemingly endless prompts to press random numbers before having to start over again. I have also dialed numbers that a Veteran swore was unreachable only to have a live person answer on the second ring. CVSOs are not personal assistants to make phone calls, because you are not willing to listen to horrendous hold music. Very often you can press zero (0) and speak to an operator (a real live person).

Most benefits available to Veterans are ad- ministered by VA and MDVA. They make the final decision about awarding a benefit based on rules (typically laws) and the evidence sub- mitted. CVSOs do not make decisions, nor do we award benefits. However, we do assist and advise on available benefits and how to submit a claim or application to provide an opportunity for the best possible outcome.

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