Veterans Service Officer — back in the office

I am back in the office as of last Thursday. I apologize for the lengthy unexpected absence from the Veterans Service Office. A chain of events prolonged my absence.

As many of you are aware, I have prostate cancer issues that I must deal with on a continued basis. During the first part of my absence from the office I was attending to my medical needs in this regard. After that, I took a few days of vacation with my wife to see the beauty of Death Valley from our Harley-Davidson motorcycles with a group of friends.

While I was on that trip I received emergency information my 92-year-old mother had to be admitted to an emergency hospital in Oregon for pneumonia and heart condition. Needless to say, I had to fly out there immediately. I was back in the office March 26.

VA Albuquerque travel

I have been re-evaluating and adjusting our travel reimbursement program as the cost of fuel has been going down and the VA travel pay has been going up.

Also in this consideration is the fact that Albuquerque VAMC provides overnight lodging sometimes, and sometimes not, depending on their budget each month.

The VA recently raised its travel pay to .415 cents a mile, the second hike in this benefit in the past six months for eligible veterans.

This means if you are eligible for Albuquerque VAMC travel pay, you will receive about $177 for fuel costs. However, it only costs about $50 for fuel to Albuquerque and back. A hefty profit to the veteran of about $127 for the trip.

Now, sometimes Albuquerque VAMC can provide an overnight room and sometimes not, which may leave the veteran to pay for a room. The veteran discount cost for a VA-approved hotel room currently is $51.

Local veterans are used to stopping by this office to get reimbursement of fuel and/or lodging travel pay. For those veterans not eligible for travel pay, I pay the following for a trip to Albuquerque VAMC: $75 mileage and $51 for a hotel room.

However, if you receive $177 in travel pay from Albuquerque VAMC and you have to pay for a hotel room; you still come out ahead by about $50. In these cases, I will no longer pay for a motel room from our Veterans Trust Fund if you are receiving travel pay from Albuquerque. It would be like getting paid twice for the same costs and the veteran is profiting from the trip.

If you have any questions on this, please feel free to stop by and see me and I will explain it.

DAV vans

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization is running a VAHC Van from Durango on Tuesdays and Thursdays — call Mike Dunaway 247-2198 — and from the Farmington area on Mondays and Wednesdays — call Harriet Mulnix (505) 793-1782.

Further information

For information on these and other veterans’ benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center. The office number is 731-3837. The office is open from 8 to 4, Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for application for VA programs, and for filing in the VSO office.