Remembering and supporting our military veterans

County Management

By Roger Baker

It’s always a good time to remember our military veterans here in Gilpin County, though certainly no time is more appropriate than Memorial Day.

The memorial walk last weekend from Nederland (in Boulder County) to Rollinsville also serves to remind us that although these are local concerns, they also transcend county boundaries.

The issue of how the County provides services to its veterans has become more pressing here in Gilpin because of the resignation of the County’s long-time Veterans Service Officer, Denis Darby. We were very lucky to have Denis in this position for six years, and he will be much missed.

And though Denis had done a great job in the role, bringing both compassion and competence to a position that needs both, as always when these openings arise the Commissioners like to take advantage of the opportunity to see if there are ways a position can be restructured to deliver the same services (or better) more effectively and efficiently.

There is state legislation that establishes the Veterans Services Officer (VSO) position, and also sets aside a small stipend for each County. As described on the official website, their main function is “To assist Veterans, their dependents, and their survivors to obtain state and federal benefits to which they are entitled.” Dealing with any federal bureaucracy is always tedious and time-consuming (the Veterans Administration is no exception) and having a local representative who knows the system can prove very helpful.

But in a county like Gilpin, another big element is transportation; most veterans’ services – health care especially – are located in the Denver area, and even if healthy, not all our local vets have a means of getting down the hill and back. So Denis spent a large proportion of his time (much more than he was compensated for, frankly) driving our local vets to appointments in Denver and Aurora.

Since we’re not unique in these challenges, this seemed to the Commissioners to be another area in which we might partner with another county – in this case, Clear Creek – to get more bang for the taxpayers’ bucks. So the Gilpin and Clear Creek Commissioners are trying to set up a meeting to discuss how such a combination might work. Such a joint VSO operation is specifically allowed by Colorado law.

Even pooling the paltry amounts the state gives both counties for the VSO program, the two counties will also have to kick in some money of their own, and that gets into an always interesting allocation discussion. Then there are questions of office space, and how much time the new VSO would spend in each county.

But those problems can always be worked out, and with good faith and a little effort the Commissioners can arrive at an arrangement that will allow both counties to provide a better level of services to our veterans.

Seeing the flags on the graves of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom is always sobering and impressive, but we can’t let those images blind us to those veterans living in our community who have all sacrificed in one way or another for our freedoms. They deserve our support.

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