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County Veteran's Service office sees big jump in contacts

DETROIT LAKES -- The Becker County Veteran's service office has seen a 21 percent increase in client contacts over the past year, according to Veteran's Service Officer Lauri Brooke.

"That's across the board," she informed Becker County commissioners in her annual report to the county board on Tuesday. "We've seen a 32 per-cent increase in phone calls... the toll-free number you authorized is a great success."

Brooke's office has also brought in $7.26 million in compensation and pension claims for Becker County veterans, and another $7.5 million in assistance with medical expenses. That means her office has generated nearly $15 million in assistance and benefits for county veterans in 2007, she noted. And that's not all.

"More money is coming," Brooke said Tuesday, addressing both the commissioners and a small group of veterans who were at the meeting to hear her report. "That $14 million will go up."

Brooke also noted that through the county's partnership with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, two formerly homeless veterans have now been placed in homes, and another veteran who had "lost everything" in a fire was able to obtain assistance in getting new housing.

Brooke's office also helped to facilitate two reintegration seminars for assisting returning soldiers in the transition from military to civilian life, and will be facilitating a class in veteran's benefits through Detroit Lakes Community Education in March 2008.

Board Chairman Larry Knutson asked Brooke how many veterans were currently living in Becker County.

"We have about 3,300 registered veterans in Becker County," she answered. "That's about 10 percent of our population."

Brooke also noted that she had heard "some talk" about Becker County not doing enough for its veterans.

"All the programs are there, but you can't force someone to use them," she said. "" We're trying to do everything we can, but we can't make people come to see us."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454