As many of you know, we do not have any local veterans travel money available at this time.
I estimate we will not have any money available until, perhaps, late in August.
The reason this is happening is because we obtain our travel money every year from the Colorado Veterans Trust Fund through a grant. The Colorado fiscal year ends on June 30 and all VTF Grant accounts must be brought to zero balance by that date.
The new 2011-12 Colorado fiscal year began July 1, 2011. We have been approved for a new grant for this coming fiscal year — $50,000 — but it won’t be finalized until about late July or the first of August with a new grant contract drawn up between the State of Colorado and our local American Legion Post 108 (grantee).
Until that happens, we cannot ask for an advance of our grant money until that contract is signed, sealed and delivered. Then, it takes about a month to actually receive money in our special grant bank account, for disbursement to our veterans for VAHC travel money and other veterans’ needs.
Many veterans get travel money from the VA because they either have service-connected disabilities or very low incomes.
Our small local American Legion Post does not have the financial resources to spend the money first, then be reimbursed by grant money later as is the case in some of our larger Colorado counties. So, we have to wait until we can get an advance on our grant.
I am already experiencing irate veterans calling me, angry, because I do not have any travel money to give them. And, I cannot promise these veterans that I can pay them retroactively when I do get new funds. The state will not allow me to pay out grant travel money for any VAHC travel prior to the date the contract between the state and the American Legion is signed, as already outlined above.
A few years ago we did not have any travel money. If a veteran couldn’t get it from the VA, they had to pay for their own travel expense. It was due to this grant process that we were able to overcome that shortcoming.
Not an entitlement
But, this travel money is not an entitlement. It is a benefit, and we can never guarantee that we will have in future years. With the financial hardships of the state, counties and cities across America it could very well disappear for good.
I can assure you that as soon as I have money available again I will announce it and assist every veteran I can with travel money. I suggest you save your appointment vouchers and motel receipts for possible retro payment at a later time.
Durango VA Clinic
The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. 3rd Ave. Durango, Colorado 81301 (the old Mercy Medical Center). Phone number is 247-2214.
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization is running a VAHC van from Durango on Tuesdays and Thursdays — call (505) 239-2769 — and from the Farmington area on Mondays and Wednesdays. Call (505) 793-2915 or (505) 325-4775.
For information on these and other veterans’ benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.
The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-6648, and e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for application for VA programs, and for filing in the VSO office