The California Association of County Veterans Services Officers has released its 2018 report highlighting the successes achieved and challenges still faced by CVSOs throughout the state.
“The report shows 2018 was a year we can be proud of – topped by a record half billion dollars in new benefits for the veterans we serve,” said CACVSO President Scott Holwell. “But that is only part of the story. State funding continues to lag. With increased state funding, we could gain more than a billion dollars a year for veterans. That is a goal we will continue to strive to achieve.”
Here are highlights of the 2018 CACVSO report. The full report is online at CACVSO.org/annual report.
One half billion dollars for veterans in 2017-2018
In a remarkable demonstration of cost effectiveness, County Veterans Service Officers (CVSO) helped California veterans gain more than a half-billion in federal benefits in 2017-2018, at a cost of only $5.6 million in state funds. Highly trained, hardworking and dedicated CVSOs guided veterans through a maze of regulations to find benefits and programs available to them. Then, the CVSOs help them successfully apply for them.
Veterans are not the only winners. California businesses and government benefit as veterans put that half billion dollars to work, pumping up the California economy with spending on a wide variety of products and services. That’s not all. As veterans receive their new benefits, they make less use of state and local social services, easing that burden on government.
CVSOs go extra mile helping with VETERAN drivers’ licenses
The response of CVSOs to a new driver’s license law highlights their determination to go the extra mile. Beginning in 2015, veterans were allowed to request that the Department of Motor Vehicles add the designation VETERAN to their drivers’ licenses. More than 104,000 veterans have gone to CVSOs to request the change.
The CVSOs handled their DMV applications but they didn’t stop there. They examined the veterans’ military records and found 32,000, nearly a third of the veterans applying for the designation, were not receiving the benefits they had earned – and didn’t know it. The CVSOs helped these veterans gain $63 million in monthly annualized benefits and $34.7 million in retroactive benefits.
More state funding could unlock door to billions in benefits
For nearly a century, California counties have been unlocking the door to billions of dollars in veteran benefits for men and women who have served all of us in the defense of our freedom. It’s an impressive achievement but with more assistance from the state, County Veterans Service Officers (CSVO) can help veterans bring home more billions in hard-earned benefits.
Counties paid 79 percent of the $35.9 million of CVSO operating costs in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Only 16 percent, $5.6 million, came from the state general fund. The state is falling far short of the commitment made by the Legislature – and the gap keeps widening.
Lagging state aid costs California economy more than billion a year
The California economy is losing more than a billion dollars a year because the state is failing to adequately fund efforts to ensure veterans receive all of their federal benefits. California’s 1.75 million veterans population is the largest in the nation but it trails its nearest rivals, Texas, with 1.67 million, and Florida with 1.53 million, in utilization of veterans compensation and pension benefits.
Those states outperform California because they hire more veterans service representatives, as a ratio of veterans served, than California. Our state’s shortfall means 75,000 veterans and their families aren’t getting all of their benefits. The solution is clear: the state needs more professional Veterans Service Representatives to guide veterans through the complex process of filing claims successfully.
Veterans benefits: more hurdles to clear than Social Security
Veterans benefits are, unlike Social Security and other federal benefits, extremely individualized. Veterans often miss getting full benefits when they try to tackle the complex system on their own or with a nonprofessional. That’s why County Veterans Service Officers (CVSO) play such an important role.
Studies show veterans get more benefits when they come to a professional for help. CVSOs do the job well. They succeed where others fail because they blend an understanding of the system with concern for the veteran sitting across the table. The CVSOs are not remote, paper-shuffling bureaucrats. They meet veterans face-to-face with a look that says, “We’re on your side.”
View the CVSO 2019 Annual Report at www.cacvso.org, annual report, CVSO 2019 Annual Report
California Association of County Veterans Service Officers