In a tribute to those who have served in the military, the Board of County Commissioners Thursday issued a proclamation observing Veterans Day on Monday, Nov. 11. The national holiday honors all American veterans who have served this nation.
More than 36,000 veterans are estimated to live in Multnomah County and between five and seven percent of the County’s nearly 6,000 employees have served in the Armed Forces. The County is committed to honoring all veterans by helping them access the benefits they earned through their service.
Multnomah County operates a Veterans Service Office staffed by veterans and experts in the federal veterans’ benefits process. The office connects people who served in the military with pension, disability, and health benefits. In fiscal year 2019, the team helped 316 eligible veterans or family members file claims, and secured more than $2.6 million in retroactive benefits.
“Veterans Day is an opportunity for us all to slow down and honor all of those who have served our country and the military,” said Commissioner Sharon Meieran, who serves as the Board Liaison on the County’s Veterans Task Force, a local partnership to improve outcomes for the County’s veteran community.
Meieran sponsored the proclamation, which featured a panel of several members of that Task Force, which was established in 2010 by former District 4 Commissioner Diane McKeel. The group is composed of community organizations, and state and federal partners. It works to improve services for veterans.
The function of the task force is education, networking and relationship building among the group members with the goal of strengthening the local network of veterans services. The group also focuses on advocacy and empowerment on issues of equity and inclusion for the military community.
“One of the ways we help build strong networks of partners is through participation in the Veterans Task Force,” said Jamison Purry, the program supervisor for the Veterans Services Office. “The veterans we work with represent people from many diverse communities including communities of color, LGBTQIA+, older adults, women veterans, people with disabilities, and Native American tribal members.”
About 87 percent of the County’s veterans are White, 4.5 percent are Hispanic or Latino, 3.9 percent are two or more races, 3.6 percent are black or African American, and 2.8 percent are Asian. Almost 8 percent of the County’s veterans live below the poverty level, and 29 percent have a disability. The task force works to address the needs of each population.
As an orphan from the Korean War, Commissioner Lori Stegmann expressed her strong support for the work of the Task Force and for all veterans. “Over 1 million Korean civilians died and over 30,000 service members gave their lives, so I’m in awe and appreciation of every single one of you who have put your life on the line for our country and I thank you,” she said.
Looking ahead, the county Task Force is considering expanding its reach to become a regional body. The group is also considering adding a case consultation approach to help participants identify solutions for specific Veterans with whom they are working.
“Veterans have a lot of different needs and we have been able to evolve the work we do at Multnomah County to really focus on what each individual person needs,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “When we have these proclamations it allows us to hear about those needs and the different ways, the new ways, the creative ways we are working to address them.”
Contact Veterans Services to Schedule In- Person Appointments with a Veterans Service Officer:
- By Phone: 503-988-VETS(8387)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org