Ottawa County Veterans Service Office staff on Halloween: Vernon Conley, Jenilee Biehler, Sara Toris, De Ann Louk.
On the home page of the Ottawa County Veterans Service Office website:
“A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled, and less than that no man shall have." -Theodore Roosevelt, 1903
It has been a busy year for Ottawa County Veterans Service Office Executive Director De Ann Louk. She recently returned from a 10 month deployment to the Middle East. Shortly after her return, she was invited to Washington. Louk’s son, Cpl. De Vaughnte Askew, is serving on President Obama’s security detail at Camp David. Families of those serving on the detail were invited to Camp David and to meet the President in the White House. “How many sons have the opportunity to meet their Commander in Chief, and to introduce their mother to her Commander in Chief?” Louk marveled. Her experience at the White House and with the President and First Lady were “a blessing. Everyone made you feel most comfortable.”
When Louk returned to her Director position, she found that there was a high demand and accumulation of requests for Veteran’s Services. That, combined with the office’s effort to increase their outreach to veterans, has created a lively atmosphere at the now fully-staffed Oak Harbor office.
“Lots of veterans don’t know about the benefits available, including many who served in the past,” said Louk. “It is true that the backlog is still there, but there are positive changes in the VA (Veteran’s Services Administration.”
One of the main missions of the Ottawa County office is to “help veterans by explaining things, and all the caveats of the VA,” said Louk.
All veterans are encouraged to come to be assessed for their eligibility for benefits, not only for health care, but for home loan application assistance, burial benefits, and other benefits to which they might be entitled.
For example, explained Louk, “in 2010, the VA added more conditions (that qualify for benefits).” Included were more and broader disability benefits for Vietnam Veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange, and for undiagnosed illness for Gulf War Veterans. Even if a veteran has previously been denied benefits, the Ottawa County office can help him or her determine if their case can be re-opened.
Louk also emphasized that even if a veteran does not want to explore the possibility of benefits for him/her self, they may want to consider doing so for the benefit of their family and survivors.
The Office is at 8444 W. State Route 163, Suite 102, Oak Harbor. The website is www.co.ottawa.oh.us/veterans, and the phone numbers are 800.610.8872 (within Ottawa County) or 419.898.2089.
On Nov. 20, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., at The American Legion Post at 2000 Buckland Ave. in Fremont, there will be a Veteran Stand-Down. All veterans are encouraged to attend the event, which is funded by The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families and sponsored by WSOS Community Action, The American Legion and Northcoast Jobs Connection.
Included will be a free lunch and free transportation. Assistance will be available for housing, medical, financial, employment, VA benefits, and social needs. Ottawa County veterans can call Jeni at 419.898.2089 for transportation.