$8.9 million in veterans benefits flows into CassPublished 8:22am Friday, August 21, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
CASSOPOLIS – Tom Green, Cass County veterans director since March 2, reported to the Board of Commissioners Thursday night that more than $8.9 million in federal benefits flowed to 4,800 veterans during the 2008 fiscal year.
“I learned very quickly that there are many veterans who are either uninformed or misinformed about the benefits that are available to them,” he said. “I accept the responsibility to reach out to these veterans and to make them aware of the benefits to which they are entitled.
“I can’t tell you how many of them are receiving federal benefits because the information isn’t available,” Green said, adding that $162,000 came in the form of educational benefits.
“I expect that amount to grow substantially over the next fiscal year or two because of implementation of the new GI Bill,” Green added.
Seventy-four new veterans have been added to the Cass County rolls in his six months.
“These are not all young veterans,” he said, “just new veterans.”
Green said he has introduced himself to all nine county veterans organizations to inform them of funds available to indigent veterans and their families, completed training required to be accredited by the National Association of County Service Officers and joined the Michigan Association of County Veterans Counselors.
“I have learned a lot in six months,” Green said, “but I know I have a lot to learn. On that note, I want to thank my predecessor, Fred Leet,” the former commissioner and Howard Township supervisor. “He has given me invaluable help. He still comes around my office from time to time and counsels me, answering questions I have. Fred may have retired, but he didn’t go away. I’m grateful for that.”
Green also thanked the Board of Commissioners and County Administrator Terry Proctor for support they give veterans.
“In the short time I’ve been director,” Green commented, “I’ve learned that this support is not available in all the counties of the state of Michigan.”
Green spends a couple of hours each month at the Council on Aging, answering questions and counseling older veterans.
“So far, I have helped over 200 veterans, their spouses or their children. Some were simple requests handled with a telephone call.”
Others involved sit-down meetings lasting one to two hours to go through interviews and forms necessary to apply for claims.
More than $1,000 has been distributed from the county relief fund to veterans in dire need of help.