By Derrick Knutson—
Taped to the wall in Veterans Service Officer Al Budde’s office is a sign that reads, “You served our country in its time of need. Now, how can we serve you?”
He stresses that adage to any veteran who enters his office, and he works to the best of his ability to help veterans in any way he can.
The main focus of the office is to help physically ailing veterans win medical claims related to injuries that happened while they were on active duty.
“My job is like being a disability specialist,” Budde said.
Compensation for active duty injury
Budde explained there is a formal process veterans need to go through before being awarded a claim.
First, a medical doctor has to determine there is an injury or disease that is affecting mobility or some other aspect of health.
“Pain is not a diagnosis,” Budde said.
Next, the doctor needs to state there’s at least a 50/50-percent probability that the injury occurred while on duty.
Then the most difficult step comes into play.
Workers at the Veterans Service Office have to track down documentation that proves the injury or ailment is directly related to service.
“Evidence comes in many forms – writing home to a family member complaining about an injury or accident or it could be in a ship’s log or other records,” Budde said.
He noted 40 percent of claims are approved, but that shouldn’t deter veterans from seeking help.
Some veterans who had injuries decades ago even win claims, as was the case recently with a veteran who Budde said received inadequate care during the 1970s.
The veteran recently had an operation to address deterioration in his leg, and the Veterans Service Office was able to help him trace that injury back to his service days and get him compensation.
Budde noted for those who aren’t approved, he directs them toward the state’s Veterans Affairs Health Care system, which can offer free aid in many forms, including supporting veterans who are dealing with post-traumatic stress related to service.
He said is office is usually busy serving some of the county’s 3,862 veterans, but he and others at the office are always willing to assist “the one percent that protect and defend the 99 percent” of this country’s citizens.
For more information on the Veterans Services Office, call 651-213-5600.