New service officer reaches out to veterans


First Posted: 11/6/2009

Meghann Evans
Staff Reporter

Its been a little over a month since Michael Scott switched posts, from working with people in the service to helping those now out of the military.
But with both jobs he had the same goal reaching out to those who have sacrificed for their country.
On Oct. 1, Scott began his job as Surry County veterans service officer, leaving behind his 10-year job as a Navy career counselor.
I really didnt know what to expect … but its somewhat of a comparable role here, Scott remarked.
Nov. 30 marks the official retirement of Scott from 20 years in the Navy. Its his own status as a veteran that is helping him relate with and get to know the people he now serves.
That mutual respect, veteran to veteran its an immediate icebreaker … Its made all the difference, said Scott.
A little more than a month on the job, Scott is still settling in and assessing his new office. Scott said he has made only minor changes to the offices operation.
I didnt want to come in and be a strong arm, he explained. I dont want to change it if its not broken.
One effort by Scott is to get the public more aware that Surry County has a veterans office, which he says is a great asset to the community. Scott gave a presentation at the last county commissioners meeting about his office, and he is trying to get more information to the media and on the Web.
Before Scott applied for this job, he didnt even know that Surry County had this resource.
Thats one thing that troubles me that these guys dont know that were out here, Scott remarked.
The mission of the Surry County Veterans Service Office is to help veterans and their dependents obtain federal benefits they are entitled to. Scott said many widows and dependents of veterans come into the office.
So far its been great. Its been very busy. Im very surprised at the volume, said Scott.
While the Veterans Service Office is not somewhere veterans can come to get money immediately, they can get help applying for benefits. Office employees also encourage veterans to visit the Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Winston-Salem if they need medical help or struggle from a service-related illness such as Agent Orange or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Scott said some of the older veterans resist coming in to apply for benefits. He said, A lot of the guys are very proud. Growing up, they didnt complain a lot … but its time to let their country give back to them.
According to a VA report, there were 5,631 veterans in Surry County in 2008. Scott said many of these veterans fought in the Vietnam War. Surry County veterans comprised eight percent of the veterans in district 8, an eight-county area, in 2008. Surry received nine percent of the money in the district. It was the only county in this district that brought in a percentage of money that was higher than its percentage of veterans.
Thats telling me that the girls have been … getting the vets what they deserve. Im not saying the other counties are not doing a good job, but our girls are doing a better job, Scott said with a smile.
The new officer expressed much gratefulness for the staff surrounding him. Angie Thomas, assistant to the veterans service officer, spent months receiving her accreditation to do the VA paperwork while the county waited to hire a new officer. Scott said Thomas and the other employees have gone above and beyond the requirements for their positions.
He said, The staff here is great. Im proud of everyone … Its a good atmosphere around here. Its that small-town atmosphere.
The office has 2,000 active files and around 1,800 archived files. Many veterans come from out of state and out of county to come to the Surry office. Virginia doesnt have veterans service offices, which are paid for by the counties but work through the VA.
Were very fortunate that North Carolina does that, Scott said. Its a way for us to take care of our veterans, compensate them for what they deserve. Its pretty important that we dont forget what theyve done. These are the guys that have paved the way for us.
For Scott, it was his grandfather that paved the way for him. Scott grew up in the Holly Springs area of Surry County and graduated from East Surry High School. He was interested in electronics and wanted to go to North Carolina State University, but he was afraid that finances would be an issue.
So Scott decided to join the military, like his grandfather who fought in World War II. When Scott tried to join the Marines, his grandfather got mad, so in the end he decided to join the Navy. There he got to work as an electronics technician.
As a Navy counselor for the past 10 years, Scott talked with people about their career opportunities and benefits in the Navy. He also recruited people to the Reserves.
Now Scott is back in his native county, catching up with old friends and making new ones. He has high hopes for the veterans service office.
I dont know what the history was before I got here … but I just want everyone to know that no matter what, were going to do a hundred percent to get them anything that we can within our power that they deserve.
The Veterans Service Office is at 1218 State St., Mount Airy, in the Human Services Building. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Drop-ins are welcome. People can schedule an appointment by calling 783-8820.
Contact Meghann Evans at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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