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Help available for veterans

Last week, veterans outreach staff from U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar's office toured the state to host forums offering information about opportunities for veteran benefits.

They stopped in Alexandria Thursday along with several state agency representatives. Although few veterans attended the local forum, there was abundant information about local, state and federal resources for health care services, educational benefits and job opportunities.

The overall message: Just ask, there's likely an agency that can help.

Representatives from the following departments offered brief presentations about what they have to offer vets in the Alexandria area; contact information is included:

--Klobuchar's veterans outreach staff: At the federal level, provides an avenue for "cutting red tape for vets' benefits," relaying information between departments, making sure agencies have all the information they need for a veteran's request and more. Contact: or (612) 727-5220.

--Douglas County Veterans Service Office: At the local level, assists veterans/dependents with benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. They also provide transportation to and from Veteran's Administration Medical Centers. Contact: or (320) 762-3883.

--Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs: MDVA is a state agency that assists veterans and their families in securing state and federal benefits by providing programs and services relating to higher education, benefits, burial, claims, outreach and veterans preference. MDVA also operates five veterans homes throughout the state. Contact: or 1-888-LINK-VET (546-5838).

--Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans: MACV is a non-profit organization that directly helps veterans and their families affected by homelessness or those in danger of becoming homeless. It also strives to serve, inform, educate and train others to carry a message of hope. Contact: or (651) 291-8756.

--Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development: MNDEED provides specialized staff and employment services to help all Minnesota military veterans, including those in the National Guard and Reserves, prepare for, find, and keep a job, no matter their era of service. Veterans employment representatives are located at WorkForce Centers statewide to guide veterans. MNDEED also works closely with employers to develop job opportunities for veterans and to advocate on their behalf. Contact: or 1-888-GET-JOBS (438-5627).

The representatives indicated they have a good working relationship with one another and will direct a veteran where they need to go for answers or assistance. The group indicated that the best place to start is with a visit to the Douglas County Veterans Service Office in the Service Center building, 806 Fillmore Street.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133