Veterans to have easier access to federal benefits

Veterans in Benzie County will soon have easier access to their benefits such as combat counseling and health care.

Benzie County veterans and their families now have easier access to services and benefits, thanks a new partnership.

A consolidation between the Grand Traverse County Department of Veterans Affairs and it's Benzie County counterpart will make it easier for veterans and their families to get access to the services entitled to them after their service.

"Until now, our veterans had pretty minimal access to all these veterans' services. We had limited hours and we weren't able to adequately cover all the different benefits our vets and their families could get," said Chris Olson, Benzie County Administrator. "A lot of our folks were going to Traverse City anyway. Our Board of Commissioners is committed to assuring our veterans have easy access to these services. We want to make sure they can get all the benefits they've earned."

Chuck Lerchen, Director of Veterans Services for Grand Traverse County says veterans are already coming to Traverse City for the health clinic and combat counseling.

Under this agreement between the two county's departments, veterans in Benzie will have full time access to the Traverse City Office and the services provided there. Lerchen says all veterans are eligible for various benefits through the agency, but many don't know about it.

Staff members from the Grand Traverse Veterans Department will also visit the Benzie Veterans Building for one day each week. 7&4 News is told that they will handle all federal, state, and county veterans' benefits.

"A lot of sacrifice has gone into earning the benefits our Nation gives to veterans; it shouldn't be made difficult to access those benefits," Lerchen explained.

The latest statistics from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, show that approximately 1,812 veterans live in Benzie County.

To check out the entire report, click on the video above.