There are approximately 1,320 veterans who reside in Redwood County based on the best estimates provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
That number is a bit misleading, though, as veterans are listed for a county based on their zip code, which means some who actually reside in the county and have addresses of communities in surrounding counties would be counted in those counties.
That can make benefits reporting a bit of a challenge, but in Red-wood County is does not seem to be making that much of a difference, as it continues to see the funding it receives for the benefit of veterans exceeding most counties with a similar population.
According to Marty Caraway, Redwood County veterans service officer, the county saw $9.6 million in benefits distributed to its veterans in 2012, with $5.4 million being allocated to help with everything that assures veterans are not homeless to ensuring they have enough to eat.
Another $3 million plus is allocated for everything from medical expenses to education and rehab.
In terms of comparison, Lyon County, which has an estimated 1,600 veterans saw an allocation of just over $7.3 million, and Nobles County, with an estimated 1,400 vets saw an allocation of nearly $6.9 million in 2012. Renville County, which has an estimated 1,387 veterans, saw $8.18 million in benefits funding coming in for 2012.
Caraway recognized these are tax dollars being spent, but added the good thing is they are being spent in the county helping veterans who are in need.
Caraway, who presented the information about the local veterans program to the Redwood County Board of Commission-ers during its meeting Tuesday, said he knows not every veteran in the county is receiving the benefits they could, adding on average 40 percent of veterans are taking advantage of the programs and funds they could receive.
Caraway’s role as veterans services officer is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday kind of position, as he is often out and about meeting with veterans on their time long after 5 p.m., as well as serving them on weekends and whenever he gets a call to assist.
In addition, Caraway has been very involved with veterans issues at the national and state level, and this past week he was in Wash-ington, D.C. working with members of Con-gress on a bill he said would help speed up the application process for veterans who request help. Although the bill has run into some roadblocks, he said compromise proposals have been made, and he thinks in the end a policy that best allows people like him to access the data he needs to help veterans receive what they need should happen.
He also said legislation is being proposed at the state level that would allocate grant dollars to every county in a base amount of $7,500 with added funds based on the county’s population. In the past these have been competitive grants.