Veterans in Napa County are a rather unusual demographic. We are a mostly older community. Of the roughly 11,000 veterans in Napa County, over 8,000 are over age 55, and nearly 3,000 are over 75!
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, roughly 19 percent of the veterans in Napa County receive federal benefits from the VA. That means that more than 8,000 veterans may be missing out on their benefits.
The most common reason vets don’t get their benefits is they don’t know the benefit exists. The VA doesn’t really advertise. So vets miss out on free health care, compensation for residuals of injuries from military service, education for children, burial benefits and more.
Many veterans rule themselves out, thinking they don’t qualify or even don’t think they are veterans because they didn’t retire from the military or serve in a war zone. If you served, you’re a veteran.
Some don’t apply because the process is so intimidating. We can help with the entire application process, making it much more simple and friendly.
And some won’t apply because “there are others worse off and I don’t want to take anything away from them”. This is absolutely wrong – the VA is funded based on usage. And the more of us who apply for benefits, the more aware Congress is of the need to care for veterans.
I should probably mention at this point that I am the Napa County Veterans Service officer. My office is dedicated to helping veterans and their dependents receive any and all benefits to which they may be entitled. Part of that means educating veterans about their benefits — thus, this monthly column.
One problem we face is that we really don’t know for sure exactly what veterans in this community want and need.
The County established a Veterans Commission earlier this year to hear from veterans and to determine what their issue are, and what problems they face. They then advise the Board of Supervisors about problems and solutions. They also work on ways to honor our veterans, such as the current effort to identify any military member currently deployed overseas. If you have a family member or close friend that is currently serving overseas please submit Military Banner Recognition Form this month to have them honored in Veterans’ Memorial Park. The form can be found on our website: napavets.com.
The biggest roadblock to our efforts to make Napa County a great veteran-friendly county is identifying needs. Napa County is currently working on a new three-year plan, and part of that effort is a discussion of community priorities related to veterans for 2019-2022. The county will be hosting a stakeholder meeting to identify challenges and desires on Oct. 3 from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at Napa County Probation (1125 Third St. on the second floor). This session will be led by a facilitator and last approximately 90 minutes. Space is limited due to room size and reservations are recommended — please call 253-4800.
Want to learn about benefits that are available to those who served? Come to our monthly orientation to veterans benefits, held at 1 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at 650 Imperial Way. Call 707-253-4558 to reserve a slot for next month on Oct. 9.
Want to meet with agencies that serve veterans and their families? Come to Vet Connect, held on the second Thursday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon at 650 Imperial Way.
I want to thank all veterans for their service, whether during war or peace. I also thank their families who gave support and worried endlessly. I offer my sincere condolences to the families who lost service members.
By the way, do you know our country’s military mottos?
US Air Force: Integrity First; Service Before Self; Excellence in All We Do
US Army: This We’ll Defend
US Navy: “Semper Fortis” (“Always Courageous”), “Non sibi sed patriae” (“Not for self but for country”) (unofficial) (Think JFK: “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”)
US Coast Guard: “Semper Paratus” (Always Ready)
And of course, US Marine Corps: “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful)
Semper Fi, Mac…