Having completed some 48 years of public service, I have decided to retire as the Director of the Oregon
Department of Veterans’ Affairs effective March 1, 2013. I make this decision secure in the knowledge that the veterans of Oregon are in good hands. My staff and others concerned with the welfare of our veterans and their families are well trained and dedicated to their mission.
I could spend this entire message identifying the many individuals who have assisted me in carrying out my duties, but in an attempt to avoid leaving anyone out, let me first thank my family who have stood by and supported me throughout my career in public service.
I would also like to thank both Governors Kulongoski and Kitzhaber who gave me the opportunity to lead this great Department.
Next, let me thank the men and women of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for their support and professionalism in carrying out their individual duties. Also, I must say how proud I have been of those men and women who have served and are serving on the Governor’s Advisory Committee to the Director
I must also thank those Veteran Service Officers in our counties and those who work for our National Service Organizations. Their work ensures that no veteran anywhere in Oregon is very far from an advocate to assist them with their needs.
Let me also recognize the support and leadership of my fellow Executive Branch Agency Heads for their partnership and support of our mission.
I would also like to recognize Oregon’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, and the men and women of Oregon’s Army and Air National Guard for the partnership we have forged in serving our veterans.
The leadership and members of the Oregon Legislature along with Oregon’s Congressional delegation must also be recognized for all that they have done in support of our veterans. Oregon’s National Service Organizations and Auxiliaries are led by dedicated individuals whose concern for their fellow veterans and families are at a standard equal to any of their counterparts anywhere in our nation.
While I am retiring from my current position, I will continue to be concerned for my fellow veterans as long as I am able to assist in serving them in the future.
I thank all of you for your support and wish each of you every success in the future.
Nov. - Dec. 2012
In this message I want to talk about those individuals who approach our veterans claiming to be able to get the veteran benefits in several areas of eligibility.
To begin with, the best rule of thumb for veterans is to remember that you have earned benefits based on your service and you should never have to pay anyone to file for those benefits.
One example of the type of fraud that’s occurring is what is called “pension poachers.” These individuals usually approach senior veterans claiming that they can get them a benefit such as Aid and Attendance. All any veteran has to do is turn over their assets to them and they will then get the veteran qualified for the Aid and Attendance benefit that is designed for low-income or indigent veterans.
They can charge as much as $3,000 for this “service.” The long term impact of these actions can affect the veterans’ estate, can set veterans up for an investigation into the hiding of assets and could cause the veteran to have to pay back a benefit that they legally could not have received.
And where are the “pension poachers” in all of this? They are long gone with the veteran’s money and in some cases access to the veteran’s assets.
Again, remember, you do not have to pay for these services. Accredited Veteran Service Officers are available in every county in our state along with National Service Officers representing a number of our veteran’s organizations. Their services are free and they are there to help you. As always, their names, locations and phone numbers are listed in this edition of the VETS NEWS.
To help protect our veterans, bills have been introduced in the US Congress. H.R. 6171 in the House and S. 3270 in the Senate and are known as the Protecting Veterans Pension Act. Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader is one of the leaders of this effort in the House along with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden in the Senate. These bills are gaining sponsors and should pass during the 112th session of the Congress.
Another resource available to veterans and service members at the federal level is the Office of Servicemember Affairs (OSA) at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
In that past few months, OSA has worked to limit the reach of predatory for-profit colleges that target servicemembers and veterans for their Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits; worked to reduce the prevalence of predatory payday lenders that market to military families; worked with the VA to help protect senior veterans and retirees from unfair, abusive and deceptive scams that target their hard earned benefits; and worked to help make federal mortgage refinance and short sale programs more veteran and military friendly.
I hope you are able to celebrate Veterans Day, and that you and your family will enjoy a safe and happy Holiday Season.
Sept. - Oct. 2012
For some time now I have been meaning to write about a group of Americans who volunteer their time and resources to honor those who have served our nation. In fact, their motto is, “Standing for those who stood for us.”
You may have already guessed that I am talking about the Patriot Guard Riders. The mission statement of the Patriot Guard Riders says in part that they are “a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security.”
They also say that they will respond rain or shine, night or day and I have seen this commitment right here in Oregon on a regular basis. As they carry out their missions, it may be to meet an aircraft carrying the remains of one of our fallen or conduct an escort to a home town, or attend a memorial service to include a flag line that is now familiar to anyone who has attended a memorial service for a service member.
We are fortunate indeed to have persons in our country who fill this important need and here in Oregon I want to especially recognize these volunteers for their unselfish contribution of their time to ensure that all of our service members are honored for the sacrifices they have made for our liberty and security.
In other news, the Federal VA has a fairly new website: maketheconnection.net. This site is designed to deal with the mental health issues resulting from military service. It can provide a custom fit for veterans by gender, era of service and branch of service.
In addition, it has links just for veterans, family and friends, National Guard and Reserve, Clinicians, and much more. The site also features real world videos from veterans who have struggled with mental health issues and how they dealt with stress, flashbacks, money and legal trouble and family issues.
If you or someone you know is challenged by their experiences while serving in uniform, I encourage you to direct them to this website where they can seek solutions in private and plan
to successfully overcome these issues.
As always, my thanks to all of you who volunteer to help our veterans, those who give their time to our Veterans Home and those who have made donations to the home and to Oregon’s WWII Memorial Fund.