“I’m Glad You Asked . . .” The Top-5 Questions People Ask Staff of the Marathon County VETERANS SERVICE OFFICE

Written by Scott Berger

As part of its commitment to be open, honest, and communicative about the topics Marathon County leadership and staff get comments and questions on the most, this month’s article in our “I’m Glad You Asked . . .” series features:

The Top-5 Questions People Ask Staff of the Marathon County VETERANS SERVICE OFFICE

Marathon County Veterans Service Officer Scott Berger.

The Marathon County Veterans Service Office serves as liaison between the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) and our local veterans.

The mission of our Veterans Service Office is to assist all veterans and their dependents or survivors in applying for federal and state veterans benefits. We assist Marathon County veterans/dependents/survivors with VA medical, disability compensation, disability pension, home loan guaranty, and burial & grave marker benefits, to name just a few of the most common benefits.

We also assist veterans with the claim application process and help guide clients through the VA bureaucratic process.

In 2018, our small staff of 3 individuals at the Marathon County Veterans Service Office:

  • Had 1,400+ in-person visits
  • Made 2000+ additional phone contacts
  • Submitted nearly 1,700 VA benefit forms (many of which are very complicated and time-consuming)

I’m often asked how to best support veterans who struggle in life. First, be a good friend/relative/neighbor and just listen to them and be supportive and nonjudgmental. Second, encourage them to seek out assistance from governmental and non-government agencies. For example, the Military Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255), text-messaging service (838255), and online chat provide free VA support for all service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, and all veterans — even if they aren’t registered with the VA or enrolled in VA health care.

The work that we do at the Marathon County Veterans Service Office is so rewarding. I invite you to read on for further insights about our County office and local veterans . . .

#1. HOW MANY veterans are in Marathon County?


According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), there are estimated to be 9,096 veterans in Marathon County as of September 30, 2018.

Of those Marathon County veterans, 4,831 (53%) are age 65 or older and 684 (8%) are female.

Newspaper article at the Marathon County Historical Society’s Wisconsin Remembers: A Face for Every Name exhibit on display until June 2, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Brad Karger.)

There are an estimated 354,266 veterans in the State of Wisconsin and 19,602,316 veterans in the United States.

Did you know that beginning in 2016, the number of Gulf War veterans surpassed the number of veterans from the Vietnam War era? See this and other interesting findings about our U.S. veteran population in the infographic below.

Veterans population projections from 2017 to 2037. (Infographic courtesy of National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics.)

#2. Is the Marathon County Veterans Service Office part of the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA)?


In a word: No.

The Marathon County Veterans Service Office is supported and funded by Marathon County, along with a small grant from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA).

The role of the County Veterans Service Office is to assist Marathon County veterans and eligible dependents with applying for VA and WDVA benefits. We explain benefits and assist with the claims process, but do not make decisions about claims.

In U.S. Fiscal Year 2017, the amount of VA veteran benefits that came into Marathon County was $50,358,000 and the VA reported 3,109 veteran patients in Marathon County as receiving VA health care benefits.

The VA has only 1 benefit office in Wisconsin: the VA Regional Office in Milwaukee. So, prior to World War II, Wisconsin established County-supported offices in each of Wisconsin’s 72 Counties to assist veterans with benefits. Today, those County Veterans Service Offices (CVSOs) — along with 11 Native American Tribal Veterans Service Offices (TVSOs) — help Wisconsin veterans apply for benefits and navigate the VA system.

You can find a handy list of all the CVSOs and TVSOs in Wisconsin at the CVSO Association of Wisconsin.


#3. Is it a requirement that the COUNTY VETERANS SERVICE OFFICER be a veteran?



According to Wisconsin State Statutes, the County Veterans Service Officer (CVSO) must meet the definition of a veteran as defined in Chapter 45.

Support staff personnel in CVSO offices are not required to be veterans; however, in Marathon County, 1 of our 2 support staff individuals — Mary Dunn — is a Marine Corps veteran. Our other dedicated staff member is Gwen Loiz.

Marathon County Veterans Service Office staff (left to right): Scott Berger, Mary Dunn, and Gwen Loiz.

In order to obtain access to VA computer systems, the CVSO and support staff must undergo initial accreditation training and then yearly continuing education training to maintain accreditation. Since each CVSO is employed by his or her individual County government, other hiring requirements (such as level of education and experience levels) can vary from office to office.

#4. Are all veterans eligible for VA MEDICAL CARE?  


No, all veterans are not automatically eligible for VA medical care.

Federal law requires veterans to apply for medical care benefits. The application information is used to determine which of 8 Priority Groups the veteran is placed into. The VA is currently only enrolling veterans in Priority Groups 1–7. Priority Group 8 veterans — those who do not have a service-connected disability or have a noncompensable 0% service-connected disability and whose income is above the threshold — are currently not eligible for enrollment in VA medical care.

There are also character of service requirements and minimum duty requirements.

Every veteran’s circumstances are different, so the best advice is for veterans to contact their local CVSO office to see if they might be eligible. The CVSO office can assist with the application process and obtaining the veteran’s DD214, or discharge papers, if necessary.


#5. How do I get a VETERAN ID CARD?


There are many types of identification cards you can use as proof that you are a veteran.

  • If you are an active duty military member or an active member of the National Guard or Reserves, you get a Department of Defense ID card.
  • If you are a military retiree, meaning that you retired after 20+ years of active or guard/reserve military service, you are given an ID card by the Department of Defense.
  • If you are a veteran eligible for and enrolled in VA medical care, you can get a Veteran Health ID card.
  • Other veterans may be eligible for a Veteran ID card from the VA, which has to be applied for online at: https://www.va.gov/records/get-veteran-id-cards/vic/

One other way to show you’re a veteran is to get a Veteran Identifier on your Wisconsin driver’s license. This is perhaps the easiest method.

veteran-driver license
Example Veteran identifier on a Wisconsin driver license. (Graphic courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.)

If your local CVSO office can verify your military service, we can complete a form for you to take to the Department of Motor Vehicles. If your local CVSO office cannot verify your military service, the form will have to be sent to the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs in order for them to verify eligibility.

*  *  *

If you or someone you love is a veteran, feel free to reach out to the Marathon County Veterans Service Office with any questions you may have. We’d be happy to assist you.

Call: 715-261-1141

Visit: 212 River Dr., Suite #1, Wausau

Email: mcvets@co.marathon.wi.us


To me personally, Memorial Day is a time to pause and reflect on the many freedoms and blessings in my life . . .

I realize that I get to enjoy these things because young men and women sacrificed their lives for our country — often before they had a chance to really live out their own lives and dreams. Their families had to live without their loved ones, and these sacrifices should never be forgotten.

Please take some time this Memorial Day to honor and remember
the many brave men and women who gave their lives in service to our great country.

Scott_BergerScott Berger

Veterans Service Officer  |  Marathon County Veterans Service Office

Scott Berger has served as the Marathon County Veterans Service Officer since January 1998. Prior to coming to Marathon County, he worked as a Veterans Benefits Specialist with the Wisconsin Department of veterans Affairs in Milwaukee from 1992 to 1998. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1986 to 1991 attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant. Scott has a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration and a Master of Science degree in Management. Scott and his wife enjoy bicycling, traveling, and attending to the whims of their 2 miniature dachshunds.  Email Scott Berger.

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