Milam’s veteran services helps soldiers, families

David Barkemeyer
Milam County Judge

I am told that Milam County has some 2,665 of our citizens that have served in our country’s military. The rest of us are beholden to you veterans in so many ways and want to do what we can to continue to fulfill our responsibilities to you for the sacrifices that you made on our behalf.

Perhaps a benefit that might be overlooked in having all of you living here is the fact that the Veterans Administration compensation and benefits payments to Milam Countians total almost $14 million per year, a sizable economic shot in the arm to our area.

One of the services that the county has provided for a number of years is to assist veterans and surviving spouses in applying for and obtaining veteran’s benefits. Ken Janicek is our veterans service officer and he is assisted by Karen Kunkel.

Currently there are about 900 veterans including some surviving spouses utilizing the Milam County office to assist them with their benefits. The Veterans Administration does allow veterans to apply direct for benefits but usually deals with applicants through an accredited officer who can act as a “power of attorney” and assist or actually complete the forms for the vet. “Certified” county service officers can also help veterans but are not qualified to sign and submit forms. Ken is “accredited” through the Texas Veterans Commission and is also “certified”.

Veterans organizations such as the VFW, the American Legion, the DAV, etc. provide accredited reps as well, and some might argue that the county need not offer this service.

However, their reps are only available in Temple, Waco, etc. and not locally, and the waiting lines can be a problem. Ken also assists many vets who have chosen accredited reps from other veterans organizations if they ask for help, this is not a problem.

In 2010 the Milam County office handled over 750 office visits, 465 in Cameron and 285 in Rockdale, over 300 home visits, and over 1100 incoming phone calls. Through mid September that number had increased to almost 800 office visits, 280 home visits, and almost 1200 incoming phone calls; so activity is on the increase.

Ken is obviously well versed in VA programs, is able to access information for those that designate him as their certified rep, and serve our Milam County veterans in many ways.

He is in the office in Cameron at 204 N. Central on Monday, Thursday, and Friday and in Rockdale at the One Stop Center on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The budget for this department is set for 2012 at just over $89,000, at a similar level of service to what has been provided in the past.

In surveying surrounding counties, I found that most counties of similar size to Milam County provide only part time veterans service assistance, usually with a “certified” officer, some provide none. Most highly populated counties usually provide more substantial assistance.

I believe our level of service is a good thing for our Milam County veterans and that Ken is doing a good job.

My current commitment is to keep Ken available full time to serve our veterans, but I will be working with him and Commissioner’s Court to possibly reduce the cost of this service by as much as 1/3 over the coming months to get us more in line with counties similar to ours.

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2011-09-29 digital edition

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