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Veterans – Identification and Preparation

As we complete another trip around that fiery ball at the center of our galaxy, some will proclaim resolutions for the upcoming year. While I do enjoy a good procrastination, I believe in getting it done when the need arises rather than the changing of the calendar. I have a task or resolution for all the Veterans out there, identify yourself and prepare for the inevitable. Yes, that is two things to accomplish, but I prefer setting the bar high.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no master list of Veterans. Yes, the Department of Defense (DoD) has a record of you and your service. However, DoD does not share this information directly with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Also, neither DoD nor VA keeps track of your whereabouts (wink, wink) or your death unless they are notified by you or family. You, the Veteran, must notify VA of your existence and interest in benefits. If two of the largest federal agencies do not know you exist as a Veteran, then it is likely your CVSO also does not know. Please identify yourself.

The first step in determining benefits eligibility is to establish an individual’s Veteran status. Nearly all federal and state Veterans benefits require proof of service which comes in the form of a military discharge document.

The most current is the DD-214 or Department of Defense Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. It should be treated as the holy grail of all documents. Veterans are human, and humans have an expiration date. I take great pride and honor in assisting family members after the unfortunate loss of a Veteran. During this difficult time, your family should not have to endure additional stress attempting to locate your DD214.

Let someone know where your DD-214 is located, preferably in a safe location. Take the original to the County Vital Records office to have a certified copy made and recorded. If you don’t have the original or a copy, then request one from the National Personnel Records Center. If you need assistance or want an alternate storage location, then schedule an appointment with your CVSO. Please be prepared.

Happy New Year!

Brad Anderson is the Lake County Veterans Service Officer and can be reached at 218.834.8326, or cvso@co.lake.mn.us

Karen Christianson is the Cook County Veterans Service Officer and can be reached at 218.387.3639, or karen.christianson@co.cook.mn.us

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