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Veterans Service Office opens June 2 on Jensen Way in Poulsbo
POULSBO — More than 23 million U.S. military veterans are eligible for benefits, but only 8 million are using those benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Terry Inman and Earl Jones, both of Kingston, know just how important those benefits can be. Inman, a retired Coast Guard senior chief petty officer, received triple-bypass surgery to correct a service-related heart ailment. Jones, a retired Navy captain and Vietnam War vet, has been treated for exposure to Agent Orange.
Now, both are volunteering in their retirement years to help other veterans and their survivors connect with benefits to which they are entitled.
On June 2 at 10 a.m., Inman and Jones will open the new Veterans Service Office at 19068 Jensen Way, Suite 3A, Poulsbo. The regular office hours will be Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The office is being rented for $600 a month by American Legion Post 245 in Poulsbo. The Veterans Service Office was formerly located down the street in the North Kitsap Armory, which was demolished Dec. 14.
The loss of the Veterans Service Office inconvenienced as many as 48 veterans a month that were helped there; they had to find assistance at veterans service offices in Bainbridge or Retsil. The Suquamish Tribe has a veterans service office for tribal members.
“Our main goal is to help them navigate the VA paperwork,” Inman said. He said he got involved as a veterans service officer after the local office helped connect him with medical care he needed; that care led to a 100-percent disability determination and heart surgery. “I thought, ‘Hey, they helped me,’ so I started hanging out in the office. Then, they convinced me to become a service officer.”
Jones said the Veterans Service Office helps the county administer its Veterans Assistance Fund, but the office itself receives no county funding. Counties have veterans assistance funds to help veterans who are in financial distress. The Veterans Service Office also coordinates one-time American Legion grants for veterans with children.
Jones and Inman can help connect veterans with health benefits. They can help veterans obtain medals to which they are entitled; Jones said he “chased down” medals for one veteran who had served 40 years earlier. Jones and Inman can assist with VA-covered funeral costs and survivors benefits.
Inman, who at 6 feet 4 inches looks every bit the machinist that he is, said one of the most touching jobs he’s had as a VSO is presenting a U.S. flag to the spouse of a deceased veteran.
“I get teared up,” he said. “Big men don’t cry? That’s a bunch of hooey.”
On Monday, Inman and Jones were discussing what would go where in the freshly-painted, ground-level office with parking right outside the front door. The office has a kitchen and restroom. Inman hopes it becomes, like the old veterans service office, a place of camaraderie, where veterans from all five branches can share stories and tell jokes over coffee and goodies.
Both say serving as veterans service officers is a rewarding experience.
“I’m proud to be given the opportunity,” Jones said.
How you can help: The Poulsbo Veterans Service Office is funded by American Legion Post 245 and staffed by volunteers. Donations of good office furniture and office supplies are welcome. Visit 19068 Jensen Way, Suite 3A, Poulsbo.