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County launches veteran help site

Wasco County Veterans’ Service Officer Russell Jones has launched a new website to help area military families learn more about the benefits their veteran has earned.

The new site is still under construction but can be accessed through the Veterans’ Services and General Information links on the Wasco County site, or directly at https://sites.google.com/a/co.wasco.or.us/wasco-vso/. Jones has made the web pages a clearinghouse for contact information about local, state and federal veteran services.

“I want to address the questions that keep coming up as I am dealing with veterans,” he said.

For example, he has been asked repeatedly about a veteran identification card, which does not exist.

On the site, Jones provides easy access to the bi-monthly Veterans’ Connection newsletter that addresses issues that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines face after returning from the battlefield.

The newsletter has been put together using military terminology such as the term “Scuttlebutt” for the column dealing with traditions and culture. Scuttlebutt now means rumor or gossip and derives from the old nautical term for the cask used to serve water, which was a frequent gathering spot for sailors.

There is also an “Observation Post” for guest columns from professionals who work with veterans and “In Country” accounting of troop deaths over a two-month period. The “On to a New Assignment” section lists the names of veterans from Wasco County who have died and “Intel” details proactive actions taken by veterans’ groups within the community.

Jones’ column is called “Front Lines” and that of his assistant, Patrick Wilbern, is termed “Wingman.”

“We’ve had a lot of fun putting this together and want it to be educational for community members as well as veterans and their families,” said Jones.

A link is provided on the home page of the county website for people to sign up to have the Veterans’ Connection sent via email to their personal or business inbox.

Jones has provided a multitude of information that includes the Agent Orange hotline for Vietnam-era veterans to get updated about benefits as well as new research about illnesses caused by the herbicide.

There is also a listing of volunteer opportunities, which include manning the reception desk at the Veterans Service Office, 201 Federal Street. Each month, about 25 volunteers provide about 300 hours of donated time to keep operational costs down at the center.

Jones’ site includes a disability ratings table and explanation of available compensation, a listing of support groups for veterans, caregivers and widows, and agendas for the monthly meeting of the Veterans’ Services Advisory Committee.

“I wanted to get as much information out to veterans as possible because the more informed they are, the easier it is for them to get their benefits,” Jones said.

He said there are about 3,000 veterans in Wasco County and it is his goal to reach out, either in person or via the web, to as many of them as possible. To ensure that an increased number of veterans can be served in a timely manner, the county commission has bumped Wilbern’s hours from part to full-time in the upcoming fiscal year.

Jones invites veterans to look over the website and then call 541-506-2502 to schedule an appointment if they have questions about the information that is posted.

The operating hours for the office are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday with a lunch closure from noon to 1 p.m.

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