On August 9, Veterans Service Officer Charles Elliott addressed the Apalachicola Rotary meeting.

Elliott told members, veterans in Franklin County receive $2.8 million in medical benefits annually but his biggest job is getting veterans and their widows into health care programs. He said it is often necessary to link a disability to service in the military to get coverage, especially for veterans with higher income.

There are 1499 registered veterans in Franklin County, more than 10 percent of the population, he said, and anyone who served in active duty in the Merchant Marine or any of the armed services is eligible to register. Reservists and veterans of the National Guard are eligible only if they were called to active duty.

 “Everybody has benefits. Nobody is turned away. There’s always a rule but everything can be adjusted,” he said but benefits can be tied to where and when the person served.

Elliott said many people don’t understand there is a system every veteran or survivor must follow to get compensation.

“We are required to use standard forms. If a claim is properly filed you will get an answer in six months. If you file a claim that has no basis, it can’t go through,” he said.

He said he has filed claims that received compensation as high as $275,000. Elliott said most forms can now be filed electronically, a process he can help with, and which speeds up the process of compensation.

Elliott said he visits Chillas Hall in Lanark Village every Thursday around 10 a.m. and heads over to the old Yaupon Garden Club building to visit with seniors at the Elder Care facility on Thursday afternoons.

On Tuesday mornings, he stops by Holy Family Senior Center. “One advantage to this being a smaller county is I can answer the phone,” he told the Rotarians.

He said elderly veterans tend to be in the greatest need. Some widows live on a pension of less than $700 monthly.

“If you have a question, bring it to me because, if I think you have something, I’m going to run with it,” Elliott said. “I’m a county employee. Everybody here is my boss.”

Elliott also authors a weekly column in the Times dealing with veteran’s issues. – By LOIS SWOBODA