Legislation Improving Benefits for Veterans Gets Supervisors' Support

Published on April 11, 2014

Placer County is exemplary when it comes to honoring the men and women who have served their nation as members of the armed forces. One of the activities that the county tenaciously addresses is guiding veterans through the complex Veterans Administration benefits process. Through the diligent work of the County’s Veterans Service Office (VSO), more veterans are receiving more benefits than ever before.

This week, the county Board of Supervisors gave support to AB 2703, legislation that if passed and signed into law, would enable the county to add staff to the VSO. By hiring an additional, part-time staff person, the office could expand its outreach, process more applications and research additional compensation for veterans unaware of the breadth of benefits they’re eligible to receive.

The recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have created an entirely new generation of veterans who may be eligible for federal veterans’ benefits because of their war service and their physical and mental condition. Californians make up to 10% of the military who served in these conflicts, including California National Guard and California-based reserve units. Many returning California veterans are unaware of the federal and state benefits that are available to them. There are additional veterans, their widows or widowers in in Placer County who are unaware that they may be eligible for federal pensions based upon their past military service in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or the Gulf War.

“My job is to assist these brave men and women in receiving everything they’re entitled to,” said Veterans Service Office Jonn Melrose. “These service members have sacrificed their time, their wellbeing and even their lives, in service to their country. The Veterans Service Office does all it can to get them, and in some cases their widows and widowers, all that they’re entitled to both going forward and retroactively.”

From July 2012 through June 2013, benefits paid to Placer County veterans increased by $237, 216 a month for an annual increase of more than $2.8 million. In addition, the office was successful in obtaining $2.24 million in one-time benefits during that same period. Over the first two months of 2014, the Office secured $540,000 in retroactive payments and increased the monthly benefits paid to veterans by more than $44,000.

Receiving additional funding from the state for the VSO will decrease the funding paid to the office out of the county’s general fund. With the county’s 30,000 veterans receiving additional funds from the state and federal governments, the county’s expenditure will be reduced. An added benefit is the economic multiplier that occurs when veterans locally spend their benefits on food, housing, recreation and necessities. Every additional benefits dollar spent represents anywhere from four to seven dollars that will be re-spent in the county.

To see if you or a veteran family member is eligible for additional benefits, contact the Placer County Veterans Service Office at 916-780-3290.