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$25.2M VA impact on Bandera County Veterans

By Dennis Birchall Veterans Service Officer

Recently, the Veterans Administration (VA) has received much criticism from Congress, the media and from veterans frustrated by long waits for claims adjudication and appointments for health care. Most of that criticism has been entirely justified.
To be clear, I am not a proponent, nor a detractor of the VA. I am a part-time Bandera County employee whose job is to help veterans, their dependents, and their survivors apply for the VA benefits they have earned through military service. For this article, I am focusing on the positive impact of earned VA benefits on Texas and Bandera County veterans.
For instance, did you know that in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, the VA spent just under $14 billion on Texas veterans? Of the 50 states, only California received more VA funding.
In Bandera County, for the same period, the VA spent over $25 million on Bandera County's 2,674 veterans receiving assistance from the VA.
The largest portion of VA funding spent on Bandera County veterans was $14,359,000 in compensation and pensions. This includes: Compensation payments for service-connected disabilities; pension payments; dependency and indemnity compensation for veteran's survivors; and, burial allowances for deceased veterans.
Most of this was in the form of monthly checks to Bandera veterans or their survivors here in Bandera County. Burial allowances are normally a one-time payment.
In FY2014, the VA also spent $955,000 for education and vocational rehabilitation and employment of Bandera veterans. This figure includes automobile and adaptive equipment, special adaptive housing, dependents educational assistance, and veteran educational assistance under multiple GI Bill-type programs. VA also paid out another $143,000 for insurance and indemnities under multiple life insurance programs for Bandera County veterans and their families.
Lastly, the VA spent $9,786,000 for medical care of 922 Bandera County veterans in FY 2014. While this medical care is done at the Kerrville VA Hospital and at Audie Murphy in San Antonio and not here in Bandera County, it is money that Bandera County veterans save on medical care that veterans can then apply to other necessities.
All of the above numbers come from the Texas Veterans Commission FY2014 Geographic Distribution of VA Expenditures report. This annual report tracks VA expenditures for every county in Texas. Data on the number of veterans in each county is based on the VA VetPop2014 model which is VA's official source for official estimates and projections of veteran population. Funding data is obtained from USASpending.gov.
So, bottom line, the VA is a big bureaucracy and complaints about the slowness of VA claims adjudication and appointments are valid. But, the VA does provide a significant amount of income and cost savings to Bandera County veterans that were injured in the service of their country. As with any big government bureaucracy, we should be constructively vocal when they fall down on the job, but also recognize the earned benefits they provide.
To see if you qualify for earned benefits, contact Dennis Birchall at the Bandera County Veteran's Service Office at 830-460-1643 or dbirchall@banderacounty.org