The La Crosse County Veterans Services Office is getting out into the community to make sure veterans don't miss out on benefits they've earned.
You can catch Kathy Thoen at fairs and festivals, on college campuses, in VFW Halls, public libraries – anywhere she might find a veteran. Thoen works for the La Crosse County Veterans Services Office and she’s passionate about helping veterans and their families.
“My role is to get out into the community to meet veterans and get them connected with our office,” says Thoen, whose title is Veterans Service Coordinator, a relatively new position.
Many of the thousands of veterans who call La Crosse County home may not be aware of the benefits they’re entitled to, or of the county Veterans Services Office. The office is part of La Crosse County and acts as an advocate for veterans, helping them understand and apply for benefits.
“We want to make sure no veteran misses out on benefits they’ve earned, and they know our office is on their side and can help them navigate the process of getting federal and state benefits,” said Thoen (pictured above talking to a veteran during an outreach clinic at the Holmen American Legion).
The county Veterans Services Office helps veterans file for Service-Connected Disability and VA Health Care benefits, which are both federal programs. The office also assists with state and county benefits, which can include helping cover rent or paying for car repairs, property tax credits and getting a veteran’s identifier on a driver’s license. Thoen and the team at the Veterans Services Office also can help with education benefits for veterans and their families.
In the past, the office waited for veterans to come to them, but Thoen’s position is a shift to a more proactive approach. The change means she meets veterans who may otherwise not visit the Veterans Services Office.
“Sometimes veterans want to leave their benefits for people they think are more deserving,” Thoen said. “I try to explain that when they’re trying to leave it for others, they’re really just leaving theirs on the table.”
In addition to helping veterans understand and apply for federal and state benefits, the Veterans Service Office can also help connect its clients with other local resources, such as help getting housing or work. Thoen encouraged veterans to call the office and find out about the benefits they may be eligible for now, or in the future.
“It’s worth a phone call and scheduling an appointment to make sure you’re not missing out on anything,” she added. “Remember that we are local, part of La Crosse County, and our only job is to help veterans.”
Learn more about the La Crosse County Veterans Services Office at lacrossecounty.org/veterans or by calling (608) 785-9719.