GOSHEN — Elkhart County Veterans Services provides assistance to about 15,000 veterans.
Ron Lundy, the Elkhart County Veterans Service officer, is a veteran himself. He retired from the U.S. Navy after serving in submarines and is originally from Bristol.
Lundy’s department of three people works to help those 15,000 veterans and their families year round.
“I love my job,” he said. “We get to help those who fought for our freedom. We must take care of our veterans. It’s a very important job!”
Elkhart and St. Joseph counties rank among the highest in numbers of Vietnam War veterans in Indiana, according to Lundy’s office.
It’s been 38 years since American troops were evacuated from Vietnam and many of those veterans are just now seeking services for the first time.
When servicemen were discharged, most were not given information on all of the services available to them, Lundy said. Many veterans and their family members seeking services are often surprised to discover how many services they are eligible for, he said.
In 2012, approximately $18 million in benefits for veterans came into Elkhart County, Lundy said.
Some of the services and referrals include:
• VA health care enrollment
• Service connected disabilities
• VA pensions (for veterans and their widows)
• VA home loans
• VA small business loans
• VA life insurance
• Burial and memorial benefits
• National Guard and Reserves (must have been called to active duty by the president)
• Survivor/dependent benefits
• Filing for appeals
• Medals and corrections to the DD214 (report of separation/discharge)
• Upgrades of discharge (DD214)
To be eligible for most services, a veteran must have served 90 days active duty with an honorable discharge. If their service was after 1980, they are required to have 24 months active duty and an honorable discharge. Pension benefits also require one day of service during time of war. Those who have a bad conduct discharge cannot receive assistance.