OREGON — Thanks to a statewide law, veterans can get help with essential services through Veterans Assistance Commissions, or VACs.
Locally in Ogle County, the commission helps veterans with transportation to medical appointments, filing medical claims, and even emergency food and financial relief.
As superintendent of the Ogle County VAC, Rich Sheldon is available at the Oregon office Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
Sheldon, along with Veteran Service Officer (VSO) Luke Runte, and transportation director Deana Gonzales, work to assist veterans in Ogle County. The VSO is a liaison between the veteran and the Veterans Administration and provides free consultation for qualified veterans of the county or their surviving family members. The VSO helps find applicable benefits as well as filing claim disputes.
“The services are here for the veterans. The biggest service we provide is medical transportation for veterans going to VA medical appointments, free of charge,” Sheldon said. “Our VSO has made a tremendous impacts for veterans of this county, helping to recoup almost $400,000 in adjusted disability claims.”
The commission is funded through a real estate tax levy, paid for by county taxpayers, and reports to the Health, Education, and Welfare subcommittee of the Ogle County Board.
For Sheldon, his duties at the VAC first began four years ago as a volunteer driver after his retirement. Earlier this year he accepted the superintendent position.
He explained the financial relief is available for veterans in the case of extreme need and must meet the guidelines established by VACOC.
“We have a process and we state specifically that we are not part of helping a veteran’s financial budget, but as a last resort. They need to have exhausted Tri-County Services, LIHEAP, or the township,” Sheldon said. If they are getting evicted, or have a disconnect notice, we can help, but they still have to meet the criteria.”
Sheldon urges veterans and their families to contact the commission’s office with any questions. He is available Mondays through Thursdays 9 a.m. to noon by calling 815-677-0852 or email [email protected]
Veteran Service Officer Luke Runte is available Mondays and Wednesdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Walk in visits only, no appointments. Runte can be reached at 815-677-0852 or email [email protected]
Transportation director Deana Gonzales can be reached at 815-677-6515. Please leave a message with complete appointment information.
“We are here to serve the veterans. That’s what we do,” Sheldon added.