By Scott Robertson
Jerry Story has had precious little chance to settle into his role as veterans’ service officer for Washington County. The workload has been growing since word got out the county had created the position. And that’s fine with the retired Air Force captain. He’s eager to serve those who, like him, have served their country.
“The volume has increased to the point where I’m having people wait,” he says. “Some of them are just coming in to get a copy of their separation paper, the DD214. For the most part, though, it’s filing for disability compensation that’s service-connected.”
That’s perfect, because Story’s stated mission is, “advising and counseling veterans and their eligible dependents of all benefits, privileges and rights for which they are eligible.”
After only a few months on the job, Story has several success stories. “I had an elderly lady come in. Her husband was not only a World War II veteran, but a Korea veteran as well. He had Alzheimer’s and was getting worse. They were going through their savings, their CDs right and left. She just didn’t know what to do. I sent her out to the VA so she could get all the forms to make this happen. They approved VA contracted nursing home for him.”
It had been costing the veteran and his wife about $7,000 a month to provide care for him, Story says. “At the rate they were going, they weren’t going to have anything.” Once the VA contracted nursing home came through, “she was just ecstatic,” Story says. “She was overwhelmed. It took such a burden off her.”
Story also counts as a success a vet who came to him with multiple symptoms relating to Agent Orange contact during the Vietnam War. “He had never been to the VA. But the last two years he started having all kinds of problems. I knew they were related. He had ischemic heart disease, serious skin conditions, diabetes mellitus II, liver and kidney problems – all presumptive diseases from exposure to Agent Orange. They’re all service-connected, there’s no doubt.”
The hold-up came when the vet told the VA where he had been in contact with the defoliant: Thailand. “His unit was responsible for an airstrip there. Well he said he’d go out to the VA and they’d tell him, ‘there’s no such base.’”
Because the vet’s mission was covert, there was no record in the VA system to confirm his story. “He had the documentation, though to prove he was on that base at that time. He had his orders.”
Story has had some documentation of his own to handle. He’s still waiting for a packet containing forms he needs to fill out in order to have power of attorney. “In the meantime, I can still get paperwork together and help veterans fill out what they don’t understand. They can sign it and I can send it from this office, which is better than a veteran doing it on his own.”
Story maintains office hours on the second floor of the Washington County Courthouse from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. He can be reached by email at email@example.com and by telephone at (423) 753-1628.