Veterans are a proud group.

They have served their nation and often have endured challenging life paths along the way. So, in many of their minds, asking for help just isn’t something that they do.

Yet, so many of them need help and are facing a similarly arduous journey as veterans back home. In order to help veterans find the help they need organizations such as the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) have been established with offices throughout the state.

Representatives of MACV were in Redwood Falls recently to host a free drop-in legal clinic in an effort to help area veterans with issues they are facing and to point them in the right direction toward other resources that can help. 

According to Chris Jansma, a regional MACV case manager, there are many issues veterans in this part of the state face, and helping them find what they need is a priority for the people at MACV.

“Every case is different,” said Jansma. “Every veteran faces different issues.”

So, not only is it important for those at MACV to be prepared to help with those issues, it is just as critical for them to know what resources are available.

While Jansma would encourage people to contact MACV to get help, he added a good place to start is with the veterans services officer in one’s respective county.

In Redwood County that is Marty Caraway, said Jansma.

The challenge for organizations that serve veterans is that many of them wait until they are in what Jansma called emergency status before they call.

“They often will wait until the very last minute before they call,” said Jansma.

Helping veterans see the importance of organizations established to help them is critical, as it then can ensure they are getting what they need when they need it.

One of the challenges facing veterans that MACV has been working on is homelessness. Statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that veterans make up approximately 10 percent of the overall homeless population but are far overrepresented in the data, as they make up less than 5 percent of the population.

While homelessness is a reality in southern Minnesota, Jansma said the area is classified as “functional zero” when it comes to this issue.

That, he said, is because there are so many organizations ready to provide the continuum of care for those who are in need.

No, he added, that does not mean there are no homeless veterans in this part of the state. It just means programming exists that can react very quickly when a veteran is deemed homeless.

Like other veterans issues, Jansma said veterans who are homeless are not always willing to let people know they are facing that reality. Some of them face other challenges, such as mental illness, that make homelessness part of their reality. Mostly, he said, veterans who are homeless in this area end up sleeping in their cars.

While veterans who served at any time face challenges, Jansma said the number of post-911 veterans who have issues to address is on the rise.

“These veterans are now hitting a crossroad in their life,” said Jansma, adding like other veterans from previous generations they only seek help when it appears they have no other option.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continues to be a reality for many veterans, said Jansma, adding it still often goes unrecognized and unreported.

“There is still this stigma that goes with mental illnesses,” said Jansma. “No one wants that.”

That is especially true for veterans with PTSD.

MACV is a non-profit organization that offers a variety of services, and Jansma said it is one of many serving veterans in the region.

“We just want to do our part to get veterans the best care,” said Jansma, “because that is what they deserve.”

Whether it is housing, employment or legal assistance, MACV stands ready when veterans come calling. To learn more about MACV call the Mankato office, which serves this portion of the state, at (507) 345-8258, or visit www.mac-v.org.

Local assistance for veterans can also be found through the Redwood County Veterans Services office by calling (507) 637-4034.

Photo courtesy of the Internet Public Domain