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Season challenges veterans

Patrick Wilbern deals every day with veterans in need and wants to make their lives easier during the Christmas season, and he is asking for community help to do that.

“This is a tough time of year for many veterans, so it is the perfect time to show them that we care,” he said.

Wilbern served in the Oregon National Guard and deployed to Iraq in 2010-11 as part of Operation New Dawn. He now works in the Wasco County Veterans Service office at 201 Federal Street and helps former military personnel apply for health benefits, compensation for disabilities and more.

What he and Russell Jones, senior veterans’ service officer, need are gift cards of any denomination for fuel and food. “A lot of the veterans are having financial troubles because of their mental health and disability issues and it’s sad to see them losing it,” said Wilbern.

Some of the men and women he and Jones deal with are homeless, which makes their situation even worse during the colder months of the year.

“We really need to do what we can for them, I think we owe them that,” said Wilbern.

He said there are about 3,000 veterans in Wasco County and the money they receive from the federal government feeds the local economy. More than 200 per month find their way into the office, or make contact via email or phone, to get help with some issue they are having, many times waiting months, or even years, to get the matter resolved with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In October, the last month for which statistics are available, local veterans received more than $9,000 in retroactive lump sum payments, including $500 in new recurring monthly payments.

During that month, Wilbern and Jones were away for a week at a training conference, so the dollar amount was not as high as it might have been.

Since the local office no longer receives copies of decision letters from VA on a regular basis, Wilbern said it is difficult to have the full financial picture of what veterans in the area are actually receiving.

What he does know is that, since July, the service office has helped veterans get more than $125,000 in new payments.

“We are doing everything we can to help our veterans get what they deserve,” said Wilbern. “This is a good time of year to show them that we care and that we support them.”

He can be reached for more information at 541-506-2502 or via email at


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