Veteran's Service asks commissioners for help

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When Moffat County veterans need a ride to the Veteran's Affairs Hospital in Grand Junction, the county's Veteran's Service Officer takes them.

The VSO makes between 30 and 40 trips to the hospital in Grand Junction every year. Including time at the hospital, each trip takes 8 to 10 hours.

But when the VSO is in Grand Junction, the Craig office is empty.

The VSO used to have an assistant staff the office when he was gone, but a few years ago, the assistant position went to Meeker to serve Rio Blanco County's veterans.

Rio Blanco County reimburses Moffat County the cost of the assistant.

Charley Watkins said Tuesday that Moffat County needs the VSO assistant back. Watkins has been volunteering at the Veteran's Service Office since the VSO resigned last month.

"We need to get out of that loop (with Rio Blanco County)," Watkins said.

Watkins and new VSO Tracy Carlson asked the Moffat County commissioners on Wed-nesday to move the assistant position back to Moffat County.

Watkins said grant money from the Colorado Tobacco Trust Fund would pay for the assistant for the first year, so it wouldn't cost the county any money.

Hopefully, Watkins said, there will be a Veteran's Affairs clinic in Northwest Colorado in a year, so driving to Grand Junction won't be as necessary.

The commissioners didn't make a decision about the issue Tuesday.

Commissioner Darryl Steele said he wants to make sure the move won't harm Rio Blanco veterans and that he will talk to the Rio Blanco County commissioners before making a decision.

The commissioners also wanted to set some parameters for who was eligible for rides to Grand Junction.

Currently, the VSO drives local veterans as well as those from outside Moffat County.

"We take care of veterans, period," Watkins said. "I don't care where they come from."

The commissioners wanted some limits so the program doesn't grow to cover too many people.

"When you start talking about escalation of services," Commissioner Steele said, "I have a little trouble getting on track with that."

Watkins also asked the county to enter into a lease agreement with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 for a van to drive veterans to Grand Junction.

The VSO usually drives their own car to Grand Junction, but Watkins said insurance liability makes that a dangerous move.

"They used to do it on their own," Watkins said. "But that's not the way it is anymore."

The commissioners didn't set a timetable on when they would make a decision about the assistant or the van.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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