This year has started rough with the loss of too many fine veterans, always a terrible impact for the family. Supporting families in the process of burial claims and survivor benefits is not my favorite activity, but I feel honored to assist our fallen veterans’ families through the maze of government red tape.

When asking the government for any support of a veteran, the pesky discharge document pops up every time, for burial benefits, national cemetery requests, and survival benefits. If you leave your next of kin with no documents, you have done them a great disservice. If there is no documentation, the first thing your surviving family member has to do is find a copy of your discharge. With luck there is one in the courthouse; too many times there isn’t, and we have to order from the National Archives, which adds time.

The importance of having that discharge document cannot be overstated; everything is at full stop until your next of kin has that document. While you are at it, when getting your files in order, go ahead and find all those other documents that may be needed - marriage and divorce records, retirement and bank information, mortgage notes and safety deposit box information. Consolidate all your information, along with a copy of your will, in a safe, well-known location; you’ll make your survivors much less stressed when the time comes. If you wish to update your records or just check on status give me a call. As always, at your service.

Charles B. Elliott is the veteran service officer for Franklin County. He can be reached at 653-8096, by cellphone at 653-7051, or by email to Veteranservice@franklincountyflorida.com