By Anton Reicher and Kayleen Holder
Medina County Commissioner’s heard a follow-up budget presentation by Medina County veteran’s services officer Ruben Gonzalez this past July 28. The total that the team has brought into Medina County veterans alone is up from approximately $40 million in 2020 to $46 million in 2021.
Additionally, Gonzalez reported that in 2020 his office helped facilitate $62 million in veteran services to the county (including healthcare, insurance and education services). For 2021, that number climbed to over $69 million.
Unfortunately, owing to the COVID pandemic, the county did lose a large number of veterans during that period, Gonzalez said. However, with the growth in Medina County, new veterans are moving in every day, he noted.
County commissioner Tim Neuman and others praised Gonzalez efforts in support of veterans.
“I get calls from veterans that you have dealt with complimenting you so well on how you resolve issues for them as opposed to them fighting to try and get something done,” Neuman said.
In a short phone interview this Tuesday, Gonzalez ads, “In 2016, our services were around $27 million. Here we are in 2021 and bringing in almost $46 million in services for our local veterans. We have a great team who takes the time to figure things out. We also have a great working relationship with county and city leadership which helps us with outreach.”
“We see a lot of veterans who called a 1-800 number or went to an office in SA and didn’t get anywhere (with services), and many times we can get it straightened out. Brian and Garry are great at putting the puzzle together. That’s what we are here for,” Gonzalez said. “We still have Vietnam vets out there who never signed up to get medical benefits after all these years. Many of these vets do not want benefits because they feel as if they will be taking away from other veterans who are worse off. I always like to remind them that, in many cases, securing those benefits may affect their spouses.”
As we were doing this interview, Gonzalez was preparing for a virtual hearing with a judge in Washington, DC, to help a local veteran.
“If we have an elderly veteran, instead of telling our elderly veterans to drive to SA and sit in front of a screen–we can just set it up here at our local offices. Whereas some of the younger veterans will say ‘I’ll take the hearing on my phone,’ others don’t feel comfortable and want us there to help. We are happy to do everything we can,” Gonzalez said.
Local veteran’s representatives in Medina County are Ruben Gonzalez, Brian Schaefer, Garry Murphy. The services are available at Devine’s county annex building located at 317 Hwy 132 N on Wednesdays from 8:30-11:30 am, and 1:00- 4:00, and on Thursdays from 8:30-11:30 am. Their number is 830-665-8018.
“We encourage folks to call first, before coming in, so we don’t have anyone waiting around in the waiting room,” Gonzalez said.