Veterans and their families have an array of benefits available to them. However, finding and navigating all of the programs, applications, and requirements can be frustrating and confusing. The Marion County Veterans Service Office has helped thousands of local families get the help they need.
“I have the best job helping veterans and their dependents get their benefits,” said County Veterans Service Officer Beth Clayton. “We fight to get the benefits that veterans and their survivors are entitled to. It’s a great job and a great service!”
Clayton and her coworkers are located at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Marion County Fairgrounds. Five days a week, they help veterans and their families find solutions to problems. This office is funded through local property taxes. All employees are veterans. Clayton graduated from Harding and served in the Army and the Army Reserves before returning home to obtain a master’s degree in speech and hearing science from The Ohio State University.
“Our services are free to veterans and their families. It’s illegal to charge to help someone apply for federal VA benefits,” Clayton said.
Whether service members served from World War II to the War on Terror, local employees are happy to assist with their needs. They can also help the family members apply for benefits after a veteran dies. The Veterans Service Office can also coordinate with offices in other areas, such as snowbirds who live in Florida for part of the year. Every county has an office, but the local funding varies by community.
“Marion has a very long history of taking care of their own,” said Clayton, who has served local veterans for 18 years.
The office is governed by veterans on the Marion County Veterans Service Commission. Veterans, spouses, widows, widowers, and dependent children who have hit hard times can apply for temporary emergency assistance for food, housing, utilities, and other needs until a permanent solution can be found. This applies to any Marion County veterans who have been residents for at least three months and have been honorably discharged from active military service. This can assist veterans who have lost jobs, suffered sickness or injury or lost their homes.
“We want veterans to have adequate housing,” said Clayton. “They served our country. It’s important for us to serve them.”
The Veterans Service Office also coordinates with LOVE INC. and other local offices and charities to meet the needs of local families.
Service officers can help veterans and their dependents apply for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. They also offer info and referrals to other federal, state, and local organizations.
“There are a lot of programs. It can be confusing to find each one and understand the different application requirements. We want veterans and their dependents to receive the right help from the right agency,” Clayton said.
The Veterans Service Commission also provides van transportation to local veterans who have an appointment at the VA Outpatient Clinic in Columbus, Ohio, with pick-up points at the Marion County Courthouse, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Marion Towers, Southland Mall, and the Duke Station in Waldo. They just ask for a request to be placed three to five days prior to an appointment.
A meeting with a service officer can help veterans find a variety of services, including counseling, suicide prevention, disability services, job placement, captioned telephones, VA home loan information, educational benefits, and more.
“We have an ‘accomplish the mission’ attitude!” Clayton says.
The office also has an official flag retirement box for the disposal of American flags which have become too tattered to be repaired.
The office is open from Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or other hours by appointment. For more information, call (740) 387-0100 or visit marionveteranservice.com. The Marion County Veterans Service Commission meets on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 1 p.m. at the office at 220 East Fairground Street Suite 101, Marion.