It has been 60 years since the end of the Korean War, and yes, I said "war," not a "conflict," not a "police action" -- it was a war, people died, our military froze, we had prisoners of war, we took prisoners of war and we had our veterans come home with PTSD, wounds and all the same things that our men and women are coming with now. If you know a Korean War veteran, tell them "thanks" for setting the people of South Korea free.
VA moving into the 21st Century with www.ebenefits.va.gov
The availability of the joint VA-Department of Defense Web portal eBenefits, which now integrates with the new internal Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) electronic claims processing system, marks a major milestone in VA's transformation from paper claims records to a fully digital operating environment, one of the keys to VA's goal to eliminate the disability claims' backlog by the end of 2015.
VBMS has now been fielded at all 56 Regional Offices across the country, ahead of schedule. Instead of filling out and mailing paper forms to VA, veterans can now use eBenefits to enter claim information online using a step-by-step, interview-style application, with pre-populated data fields and drop-down menus similar to popular tax preparation software.
By filing electronically, any compensation benefits that are awarded will be effective back to the date the veteran started entering their claim information in eBenefits. From that initial claim establishment date, each veteran has up to a year to gather all necessary records and hit "submit" to preserve their original date of claim.
Once logged into eBenefits, veterans can also choose to have an accredited VSO representative assist with their claim submission by filing an electronic power of attorney form. Using this new system, the chosen VSO representative, with proper authorization, will be able to see the contents of a veteran's claim, track its status, and add additional information when needed. A veteran and his or her representative can even work a claim simultaneously while both are logged into the system, enabling VSOs to assist more veterans in their homes or even remotely. This would be your Emmet County Veterans Affairs -- we are working toward get the certification necessary.
The quickest and most convenient method of establishing a free premium eBenefits account is to complete the remote verification process through the eBenefits home page, or use the Department of Defense's common access card (CAC) to register for and/or upgrade to a free premium account. Veterans can also establish an account by telephone at (800) 827-1000, option 7, if they are in receipt of VA benefits via direct deposit.
Attention Navy veterans
The Marines have the Marine Corps League that is rather active across the nation and certainly in our area; now, Dennis Bluthardt would like to start a Navy Association in our area. All you old swabbies give Dennis a call and get it going. He can be contacted at (231) 838-9632 and let's see if any of you "deck hands" can match the League's output of community service!
Help a Wounded Warriors Project
The Emmet County Sportsman Club is sponsoring a fundraising/charity shoot for Blum's Landing at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24. Blum's Landing is a free bed and breakfast retreat for our military personnel who have served our country. Veterans and their families receive free meals, housing and recreational activities. It was started by Jan and Terry Blumberg to honor their son Sgt. Trevor Blumberg who was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, in September 2003. The success of Blum's Landing depends on donations to keep it operational. On Aug. 24, the club will hold a shotgun shoot; shells will be provided for 12 and 20 gauge shotguns. Food and soft drinks will be available. Prizes will be awarded on a non-competitive basis. Blum's Landing is a 501(c)3 nonprofit foundation. For more information on Blum's Landing see their website at www.blumslanding.org or call our office at (231) 348-1780.
A special thanks
I would like to thank Sgt. David Castaneda and Sgt. Nicholas Patrick, both of the U.S. Army recruiting office here in Petoskey, as well as Eric Kesseler (former Sgt. U.S. Army Rangers) of Petoskey for their willingness to take a recent Saturday morning to serve as an honor guard for the kick off to the "Relay for Life" rally for the fight against cancer. Hooorah and well done troops! Semper Fi.
Jim Alton is the director of the Veterans Affairs Department within Emmet County. Alton served in the United States Marine Corps (1955-62) and is retired from the Michigan State Police. Reach him or his assistant, Rick Wiertalla, at (231) 348-1780 or firstname.lastname@example.org.