Auburn, Calif.- The Placer County Veteran Services Officer, Rick Buckman, was recently commended by the State Department of Veterans Affairs for the benefit payments he has secured for Placer County Veterans. In fiscal year 2009-10, Buckman assisted veterans in increasing their monthly cash benefits by $1.574 million dollars, with the annual amount totaling nearly $19 million. In addition, for the same period, Buckman was able to obtain $10.3 million in one-time benefits for county vets, for a total of $29 million in benefits.
By securing these benefits to which the veterans are entitled, Buckman has helped reduce county expenditures. Through active participation in the State Mandated Welfare Referral Program, Buckman verifies and makes benefit entitlement determinations on all public assistance referral, such as CalWORKs, food stamps and Medi-Cal. Additionally, more than $1 million in savings were achieved to veterans and their families through the College Tuition Fee Waiver Program for tuition and fees at California state colleges and universities.
During the 2008-2009, Buckman and his staff filed 3,500 claims for Placer County veterans, garnering the veterans $22 million in benefits. This was an increase from 1,700 claims and $10 million received in benefits for veterans the year before.
‘As a result of the efforts of County Veterans Service Offices statewide, more than $200 million in new federal dollars were awarded to our veterans and their survivors in the last fiscal year,’ said Buckman. ‘Veterans are being discharged from the service at increased rates due to the Reduction in Force. Many will be forced to apply for benefits on their own or will have no idea of any potential benefits that they may be entitled to.’
Buckman, who just finished year-long tenure as President of the California Association of County Veterans Service Officers, recently testified before the California State Assembly Budget Subcommittee and poignantly pointed out the overall savings the state realizes through funding of county veteran services officers.
‘Since the beginning of Operation Welcome Home, there have been more than 43,000 requests for information regarding state and federal benefits,’ Buckman told Assembly Members. Fifty-four percent of those are for Compensation and Pension Benefits; 56 percent are for VA Healthcare benefits. These veterans are being referred to County Veterans Service Offices so that we can file their claims and enroll them in the VA Healthcare system. The effect of OWH has been to increase the number of veterans requesting assistance from Counties. In Placer County I have experienced an increase of 10 percent in claims for compensation and Pension benefits in the past year.’
The Veterans’ Services Office provides assistance and advice to veterans and their dependents in obtaining veterans’ benefits. Its mission is to promote the interests and welfare of veterans and their dependents and survivors and to enhance their quality of life through counseling, education, claims assistance and advocacy.
Some benefits available to veterans include compensation for service injuries, pensions for non-service disabilities, health care enrollment, claims filing for payment of insurance policies and a college fee-waiver program for dependents of disabled veterans who wish to enroll in a junior college, CSU or UC school.
Buckman, who has more than 20 years experience in veterans’ services and is retired from the U.S. Army, isn’t surprised at the number of veterans, especially those from World War II, who come into his office unaware of the benefits available to them.
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