The message was simple and reassuring. When a military veteran is looking for information or assistance, “There is no wrong door” to enter to start the process.
Any of several federal, state, county or nonprofit agencies or groups that serve vets can be the right starting point, because they all are part of a network of support to get the veteran to the right resource.
Retired Gen. Tim Cossalter, outreach director with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office, and Greg Swanholm, outreach director/academy nominations coordinator, delivered that message Oct. 1 to a small crowd at the Hackensack American Legion Post 202.
With them were Cass County Veterans Service Officer Jeff Woodford, Assistant CVSO Steve Sether, Larry Roulet, senior veterans employment representative at the Bemidji WorkForce Center, and Mike Mays with the nonprofit Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV).
“It doesn’t matter where the veteran walks in,” Roulet re-emphasized. “We all should be able to direct him or her to the right resources. We’ve come a long way in the last 20-25 years.”
The WorkForce Center helps vets with resumes, cover letters, researching job opportunities and also works with businesses to develop job openings for vets.
Cossalter and Swanholm explained what Sen. Klobuchar’s staff can do for veterans through legislative action, local outreach (working with communities and organizations to understand their needs) and constituent advocacy.
When it comes to helping individual vets, Klobuchar’s office has connections with many federal agencies or branches, such as Social Security, IRS, US Postal Service, all military branches, the Veterans Administration, Department of Defense and National Personnel Records. This is valuable when resolving problems, finding out the status of a claim or tracking down paperwork. In short, they can serve as a liaison between agencies.
Cossalter noted that the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs also is actively involved in bringing support to veterans and is probably more “agile” than the federal VA.
MACV, a nonprofit, partners with CVSOs and the WorkForce Center to provide structured assistance to veterans. With offices in the metro area, Duluth and Mankato, MACV can work quickly to provide rental or mortgage assistance, propane or wood vendor assistance, case management and other services. MACV holds “Stand-Downs” for vets across the state. Originally targeted at homeless vets, Stand-Downs now offer a wide range of services, including housing, health care, employment assistance, legal assistance, food, clothing and more — all at one location, on one day.
The local county veterans service office is a good place to start. Cass County VSO Woodford said that when a vet comes to his office, he or Sether visit with the vet to see what the VSO can do for them.
“Things have changed in the last six to eight years,” he stressed. “The veteran may have talked to us before, and we might not have been able to help then. But things have changed.”
Woodford also thanked the Hackensack Legion for its generous ongoing contributions to the Veterans Transportation Program and other support.