(The web tech didn't put this under free content like he was suppose to, so I clipped and pasted the entire article below)
The county’s two veterans service officers increased benefits for Park County veterans by a little more than $2 million in 2016 for a total of $14.3 million.
Most of the benefits are compensations and pensions at $8.4 million, medical care at $5.1 million and vocational rehabilitation at $633,000, according to a chart provided by the Veterans Administration annual statistics report presented to the county commissioners Nov. 16.
James Pickart, D.V.M., works out of the human services office in Fairplay, and Jeremiah “Jay” Pedrie works out of an office at Platte Canyon Fire Protection District Station Two on Crow Hill.
“We have only scratched the surface; we have handled active claims for about 300-350 veterans so far this year,” Pickart said.
He said according to the VA’s statistics report, about 1,700 veterans live in Park County. Both officers believe there are more living in Park County.
Pickart said some veterans don’t register with the Veterans Administration for a variety of reasons after being discharged.
He wanted people to know that the county VS officers are not connected to the VA in any way and are county employees in the human services department.
Pickart said he works ten hours a week in the Fairplay and South Park area.
Pedrie covers Bailey, Lake George and Guffey areas in 20 hours a week. His hours were increased from 10 to 20 in 2017.
Pedrie said that 10 extra hours meant they were able to increase services substantially.
He presented a chart showing the percent increase in specific activities that he was able to accomplish with 20 hours instead of 10 per week.
They include a 500 percent increase in health care received, a 600 percent increase in outreach, 700 percent increase in forms filled out and 800 percent increase in new and expanded claims.
“We’re asking for a full time position for Jay (Pedrie) in 2018’s budget due to the need,” Pickart said.
Commissioner Mike Brazell asked what their goal was for reaching veterans.
Pedrie said now they are reaching about 20-30 percent of the veterans in Park County. He said realistically, they have a goal of reaching 40-50 percent of the veterans in the county.
Most of their work is helping veterans get benefits, but peer counseling is also part of the job.
The officers also work with the sheriff’s office when needed.
“A person not in a uniform can offer things one in uniform can’t, and some vets react negatively to a uniform,” Pedrie said.
Pedrie mentioned an incident where a veteran “was mentally in bad shape,” and Pedrie was able to calm him down.
“It could have ended with the cops taking him to jail, but didn’t,” Pedrie said.
Pickart said this year the state allocated $240,000 as grant funding to address post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health needs of veterans.
Pickart served in Vietnam in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1968-74. He joined the U.S. Army in 2002 after 9/11 and went to Iraq. He served until 2011.
Pedrie joined the U.S. Air Force in 2002 and also served in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, through 2006.
One of the biggest issues for veterans is proving injuries or exposures to chemicals that caused the veteran’s illness or injury.
Pickart said they spend a lot of time researching to get the documentation needed to file veterans’ claims.
As a veteran of Vietnam, he realized the importance of documentation when he rejoined. Pickart said as an officer, he always made sure accidents, injuries and incidents were well documented so veterans’ could receive benefits, especially medical.
Pickart said many Vietnam veterans were denied benefits because of a lack of documentation.
He said even if one has the correct information, if the paperwork is not filled out correctly, a claim will be rejected.
Pickart said a Vietnam veteran was denied a claim that Agent Orange had caused his tonsil cancer even though by that time it was known that Agent Orange caused throat cancer.
The veteran’s widow came to him for help, and he was able to get widow benefits because he showed the medical definition of throat includes the tonsils.
Pedrie said in 2016, the two reached 500 veterans, spouses or their children. He said most cases take between four and eight hours, but some can be ongoing. He said a couple of cases this year have taken up to 80 hours and still aren’t resolved.
Pedrie said they are in the loop for veterans to receive a free service dog if needed and also have started horse therapy with some veterans.
Lack of housing is another big issue, Pedrie said.
Brazell said he hoped they weren’t contributing to the camping issue in South Park.
Pickart said probably some are in that situation.
Pickart said today’s veteran is different than the Vietnam era, when vets came home with issues that were not acknowledged by the military or medical fields.
Many don’t want help or any benefits they may have. They just want to be left alone.
Veterans coming home today also want to escape to a rural area and be left alone, but they also want the benefits they deserve, Pickart said.
He expects to see the veterans population in Park County to grow.
Pickart can be reached at 719-836-4132, and Pedrie can be reached at 303-816-9498.
Brent and Floribeth Beckman, owners of ZBZ Corporation, received renewal of their licenses for a marijuana retail store, cultivation and infused product manufacturing.
The location is a 25-acre lot known as Antero Junction at the intersection of U.S. Highways 285 and 24.
The facilities aren’t open yet, but plan to be by April. The facility will be a state-of-the-art alternative energy facility.
“You are trying to do an expensive thing (building costs). The building looks very nice,” Commissioner Mark Dowaliby said.
Beckman said they sold their marijuana business in the metro area and their home in Golden to finish financing the facility. They recently moved to the Hartsel area.
Brazell asked what the trend in marijuana is today.
Beckman said most stores are seeing more sales of concentrates.
Their store will specialize in mixing marijuana with specific herbs to treat specific symptoms and illness. Products will be in capsules, not as an oil concentrate.
F. Beckman said the state has estimated that the operation will provide about $500,000 a year in taxes, which is the average for a 7,200 square feet operation.
She said that did not include the five percent county excise tax, just the state taxes.
LWTF grant proposal
The commissioners postponed until Nov. 22 a decision on a Land and Water Trust Fund (county sales tax) grant request by Elk Creek Highlands and Meadows Property Owners Association.
POA President Paul Ellis said the state is requiring the POA to provide water augmentation for evaporation from its one and one quarter acre pond in the subdivision.
If they can’t provide augmentation, they’ve been notified by the district water commissioner Tim Buckley that the pond will need to be drained.
The total project costs include all the equipment and software necessary to provide the required daily accounting of how much water goes into the pond from Church Creek and how much leaves the pond back into Church Creek, a tributary of Elk Creek.
The total project cost is $93,925. The POA is providing $3,000 in cash and $2,350 in-kind labor to install the equipment.
The request was for $88,575 or any other amount the county commissioners chose.
The LWTF board recommended the commissioners approve $50,000 with the stipulation that if the POA could not find additional funding within two years, to come back to the LWTF board to request whatever amount had not been secured.
Ellis said the pond generates income from selling fishing badges to help pay the costs of the POA.
He said the POA is looking at ways to increase its income to support yearly fees associated with purchasing water augmentation.
Beginning in 2018, the POA will sell fishing badges to those outside of the subdivision for $100 for two badges.
POA residents’ badges cost $65 for four badges.
They are looking at other options for improving the clubhouse to rent for residential use.
The pond is home for various wildlife including moose, coyotes and muskrat, plus water fowl such as great blue heron, osprey, ducks and geese, according to the grant application.
A support letter from Joe Burgett, Assistant Fire Chief Platte Canyon Fire Protection District, stated the importance of the pond in case of house fires in the area and that it is “a valuable water source for wildland firefighting.”
An ECH resident’s support letter stated the pond was used to save her home from being destroyed by a house fire.
Mark Beardsley, owner of Ecometrics, is a stream and wetland scientist. His support letter focused on the need for fish and wildlife habitat since beaver left the POA property across the road during a flood event a few years ago.
He stated he had evaluated the pond and Elk Creek across the road for stream and wetland functionality last year.
“The pond may be important for the sustainability of adjacent high-quality stream and riparian wetland habitat,” Beardsley’s letter stated.
Commissioner Dick Elsner said he opposed using the sales tax for augmenting water on a pond when the pond’s main purpose is recreation.
If this was approved, how many others would come to the LWTF for funding augmentation water for evaporation, Elsner asked.
Brazell said they had approved augmentation water for Fairplay Beach.
Elsner said that happened before he was commissioner and he disapproved of that expense as well.
Brazell said he would like to see other financial partners, so the county isn’t paying all expenses except for the $3,000 POA cash.
Ellis said the POA will contact organizations like Ducks Unlimited, but it would be easier to get funding if the county committed some amount.
Dowaliby said it was a nice pond and he would like to help the POA.
The commissioners approved the annual memorandum of understanding with the Colorado Department of Human Services stating the responsibilities of the state and the county in administering the Colorado Works and Child Care programs.
The MOU adds a new section stating the state is responsible for paying any federal monetary sanctions due to a state error and will not pass costs on to the counties.
Elsner said the MOU was written by a Weld County commissioner and may not be accepted by the state.
The commissioners approved the third quarter human services electric benefit transfers for ten human services programs.
Brazell said he was surprised to learn that a quarter of Park County’s population is receiving help from human services.
Total for the months of July through September was just under $600,000 and was lower than the other two quarters of the year.
The report states the budget, amount spent by program for each quarter and the total amount of county funds used.
Across the ten programs through September, a total of $1.98 million of the $3.16 million has been spent.
The largest program is food assistance, with a $2 million budget. Through the third quarter, $1.27 million has been spent. The program does not require counties to share the cost.
Old age pension program is the second largest program after food assistance with a $267,000 budget, of which $229,850 was spent through the third quarter.
The third largest program, low income energy assistance program, spent $137,300 through September of its $230,000 budget.
Six different programs that address children and their families such as foster care, core services, Colorado Works and child care have a budget of $611,880. Through the third quarter, $200,050 has been spent.
The county’s cost for six programs that require a match added another $53,091.
Vouchers for the week were spread about evenly across several funds for a total of $268,305.
Note – The correspondent is a member of Elk Creek Highlands and Meadows Property Owners Association.
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