Stutsman County VA seeing more vets from outside the county
Stutsman County veterans service officer said half of his workload is from veterans outside of the county.
JAMESTOWN – The Stutsman County Veterans Service Office is seeing more veterans from outside of the county, which is increasing the workload here, according to David Bratton, Stutsman County veterans service officer.
Bratton told the Stutsman County Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 21, that Jamestown is unique because it has a full-time veterans service officer and the veterans affairs clinic.
“So what we have been seeing over the last several years is the smaller communities or the smaller counties … their veterans increasingly are finding it easier to come to Jamestown, go to their VA appointments and just go to my office directly because they know I will be open,” he said. “It has gotten to the point now where my workload, my caseload, half of it is from veterans from other counties, and it’s slowly getting to the point where it's becoming more and more unsustainable.”
For the first time ever, Bratton said he is booking appointments for veterans to see him two weeks out. He said he is turning away veterans who come to his office but don’t have appointments.
Veterans are coming from Devils Lake, North Dakota, and from LaMoure and Foster counties, he said. He said veterans have said it is inconvenient for them to see their county veterans service officer. Bratton said veterans have referred other veterans from other counties to the Stutsman County office.
He said conversations will need to be held with other county commissions in surrounding counties about the fact that Stutsman County is taking care of a good chunk of their veteran population. He said the Stutsman County Veterans Service Office has resources from the All Vets Club in Jamestown that raises funds from benefits intended for the county.
“But if I have a veteran from another county that is starving, needs gas, we can’t turn them away,” he said.
Bratton said the veteran population in Stutsman County “dwarfs” the surrounding counties’ population other than Barnes County, which has a full-time veterans service officer.
“(We) need to start have conversations with other surrounding commissions,” he said. “It almost seems like we are being taken advantage of at this point just in terms of how many of the surrounding counties' population we are seeing.”
Bratton said the Golden Valley County Commission recently entered into an agreement with Stark County. He said the agreement allows Stark County to take care of the veteran-related services for Golden Valley County.
Commissioner Steve Cichos said Stutsman County will need to work with the surrounding counties on the funding mechanism so the county taxpayers are not picking up 100% of the funding.
Commissioner Jerry Bergquist said Stark County has an agreement to be able to charge other counties for veteran-related services.
“This could be something that you could do also,” he said to Bratton.
Bergquist also said counties will be working on their 2024 budgets and requested if the county commission could know if any changes would affect the Stutsman County budget.