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Veterans services is a numbers game

  If there was one thing to take away from the Veterans Collaborative meeting March 8, it was the continued emphasis on getting Plumas County vets to register with the Veterans Services Office in order to both receive services and be counted.

The volunteer collaborative is off to a strong start with partnerships beginning with various agencies concerned about veteran welfare in the county. The collaborative also has established a list of priorities to focus on — and right now it’s all about standing up and being counted as veterans in the first place.

Ryan Rogers threw out the numbers in what is now a comfortably well-worn speech. Plumas County has roughly 2,400 veterans, but there’s no Veterans Administration clinic in the county despite the high per capita numbers. Vets in Plumas County must go to Reno or Sacramento for such services and aging ones who cannot drive do not necessarily have easy access in getting there. The more veterans register and are counted, the more the need for services in the county will be taken seriously.

The continued meetings and luncheons throughout the county aim to continue outreach to veterans young and old so that one day a significant chunk of those 2,400 are registered and a satellite clinic can be taken from dream to reality.

But of course it goes beyond the clinic, which brought the afternoon to the second set of priorities with an event put on in other regions of the country called a Veterans’ Stand Down.

A Stand Down event basically saves the veteran from the red tape runaround of going from one agency office to another to get things done — whether it be identification cards, enrolling for benefits or homeless veterans receiving food or sleeping bags.

A veterans’ organizer from Marysville’s Stand Down — purportedly the most organized  Stand Down to take place — spoke to the meeting about what the Marysville event was like and the possibilities for doing one in Plumas County.

For homeless veterans, that could mean immediate services for basic hygiene, living and food. For others, it could also mean counseling, benefits, employment opportunities, drug and alcohol recovery, and chaplain services.

While services similar to those in a Stand Down do take place in the county under such organizations as Plumas Rural Services — as mentioned by one of PRS’s workers — veterans collaborative meeting organizers stressed the need and emphasis for events that focus on the particular delivery of such services to the unique situations of veterans.

Then came a call for volunteers. Throughout the discussion of the potential Stand Down event, audience members seemed to want to know who would organize such a thing and whether they were events that just happened.

Organizers emphasized instead that these events — much like most of the outreach itself — comes from volunteer hours. Scott Quade of the Plumas County Probation Department presented and emphasized the need to involve as many volunteers as possible to get these events off the ground.

The meeting was sparsely attended, but the few veterans in attendance seemed to walk away with some knowledge they didn’t have before — and realized some assumptions they’d made on whether or not they’d be eligible for veterans benefits might have been inaccurate.

For speakers and organizers of the collaborative meeting, that’s exactly the point.

The Stand Down for Plumas County will happen in September 2018. The monthly dinners and luncheons across the county will continue in an attempt to reach every last veteran in the county, according to Veteran’s Collaborative organizers.

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