July 31, 2021 —
The Florence Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is restarting its on-site access to Lane County Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) beginning on Thursday, Aug. 5. The service, which assists veterans with paperwork, advice and medical referrals, has been discontinued since March 2020, an early victim of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Many local veterans have been unable or unwilling to work through the digital and computer challenges associated with accessing veteran care. These people are precisely the individuals the VSOs are here to help, according to Steve Baggin, DAV Chapter 23 Adjutant.
“We are happy to announce DAV will be sponsoring the Veterans Services of Lane County and its VSO,” Baggin said.
The Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs Lane County VSO will be at the DAV Hall, 1715 21st St. in Florence every Thursday starting Aug. 5.
Baggin is active in the Florence veteran community, having served during the Vietnam conflict. He has taken a lead role in pushing for the return of a VSO to this area.
He also understands the hesitancy and reluctance of vets to try and navigate the world thru a computer.
“Veterans now have a choice. They can file claims for compensation or get registered for the VA with two different resources —either the DAV VSO or Veterans Services of Lane County,” Baggin said.
The return of the county representative will allow the DAV to serve local veterans, who can book an appointment or just walk in.
“This will primarily be by appointment, but we will be able to handle a few walk-ins,” Baggin said.
All appointments will be handled by the Lane County Veterans Services Office at 541-682-4191. To begin, this will be from 9 a.m. to noon and 12:30 to 2 p.m.
“Just call and let them know you would like to make an appointment to see the VSO in Florence,” Baggin said.
The VSOs Whitney Walker and Rocco Motlagh will be alternating weeks as the service continues, and Lane County Veterans Service Officer Supervisor Joseph Reiley will be in Florence to reintroduce the VSO program on Aug. 5.
According to Reiley, the opportunity to reintroduce VSO services to this area is a good thing.
“We’re excited that we’re able to restart outreach services to Florence. Obviously however, like so much in the world right now, our plans are subject to modification based on any changes in federal, state or local orders implemented to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Due to many local veterans being at high risk for COVID-19 from either advanced age or other health issues, the VSO program will require masks.
“We want to make sure that we’re keeping all our clients and staff as safe as possible,” Reiley added. “Furthermore, based on CDC and Oregon Health Authority guidelines, Lane County has implemented a face coverings (mask) requirement for all staff and clients and so we must require folks to have proper face coverings when they meet with us. We’ll have masks available and of course for those who cannot wear masks will be happy to serve them via phone — they just need to call us.”
For more information, call 541-991-8014.