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Last month, Matthew Wyman of the Franklin County Veterans Service Commission visited MVRC Headquarters to discuss how his agency helps veterans. For those who are unfamiliar with the Veterans Service Commission, this agency provides many important services to vets, such as help filing for VA benefits.
However, because we have a proliferation of veterans service organizations, it’s easy to misunderstand what the VSC is and the types of services it offers. If you’re a veteran, here are five quick facts to help explain what the VSC can do for you.
To start, it’s best to point out the differences between the VSC and the VA, as their overlap is a source of confusion for many.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) is an administrative body of the national government that provides health care to veterans, as well as several important federal benefit programs, including education programs (GI Bill), home loans, burial and memorial benefits, etc. The Veterans Service Commission is a county agency that provides assistance to veterans. Even though the VSC helps vets file VA claims, it is not associated with the VA.
According to the law, each of Ohio’s 88 Veterans Service Commissions must be composed of five county residents who will each serve a five year term. In addition, each of the following veterans organizations must recommend one of their members to serve on the VSC: 1) American Legion 2) AMETS 3) DAV 4) VFW 5) Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A., the VVA, or the Korean War Veterans Association. These five members are called the Board of Commissioners.
Each county Veterans Service Commission also has a staff of Veterans Benefits Specialists who help veterans fill out the necessary paperwork to file a claim or apply for emergency financial assistance.
The Veterans Service Commission fulfills several important functions.
First, the Veterans Benefits Specialists can help you develop and present claims to the appropriate federal, state and local agencies, as well as apply for federal and state benefits. For example, if you want to apply for a VA home loan, but aren’t sure of the documents you need, a Veterans Benefits Specialist will walk you through the process and make sure you collect the documents necessary to apply. Here’s a list of some of the benefits the VSC will help you file claims or apply for:
Second, the VSC can help you obtain copies of vital records. For example, have you lost your discharge papers? Would you like more information about a late parent’s military career? The VSC will walk you through the steps to obtain the documents you need.
Third, the VSC can provide temporary emergency financial assistance to eligible veterans who demonstrate they are trying to find a permanent solution to their financial problems. In general, most county Veterans Service Commissions will provide assistance with the following needs:
However, since the VSC is funded by property taxes, the funding–and services the VSC provides–will vary by county. Be aware that your VSC may not offer emergency payment for rent even if the VSC in the adjacent county does.
In order to receive financial assistance, you must complete an application and submit it to your VSC. A Veterans Benefits Specialist can help you fill out the application and collect the necessary documents, but the five appointed Commissioners will review the application and vote on whether or not to approve it.
The Veterans Service Commission provides assistance to veterans, active duty service members, spouses and dependent children.
The Ohio Department of Veterans Services’ website includes an interactive map that allows you to click on your county and view the contact info for your local VSC. Many Veterans Service Commissions accept walk-ins, but to be sure if yours does, it’s advisable to call ahead: http://dvs.ohio.gov/