With an office in Manchester to assist service veterans, Delaware County Veterans Affairs staffers Peggy Petlon and Raylynn Lee do whatever it takes to serve those who once served our country.
Petlon is the veterans administrator at the office located at 601 Grand St. in Manchester, while Lee is veterans assistant.
Working with a veterans commissioners board and the Delaware County Board of Supervisors, it’s the job of Petlon and Lee to wade through the paperwork and federal regulations to get service veterans the benefits and services they need.
The office serves Delaware County veterans and their families. The office helps with applications to veterans hospitals and clinics, transportation to medical facilities, distributing military grave markers for burials in the county, obtaining military records and medals and contacting other Department of Veterans Affairs offices and agencies.
“We are called most often for help with applications for VA healthcare,” Lee explained.
Federal benefits the duo help veterans apply for include compensation for service-connected disability, non-service-connected disability pension, dependency and indemnity compensation for widows, aid and attendance for nursing home residents, eligibility verification reports and completing an application to the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.
“We help the families too,” Petlon said. “Any kind of VA service we can help with. There are so many avenues and different forms.”
Lee has taken additional training to ensure veterans in the county are represented. “Because of Raylynn’s training, she can check into the VA system and see if a claim is through the system yet,” Petlon said.
“Everything we do is confidential,” Lee said. “A lot of veterans who come in want to know if things will stay confidential. If you come in and ask about another veteran, we can’t tell you.”
Lee said Vietnam-era service veterans come to them the most. Both agreed they don’t see many younger service veterans.
“We don’t have a lot of younger guys registered with us,” Lee acknowledged. “I think a lot of them don’t come back this way when they are discharged. Cities see a lot of younger veterans, but we don’t because we are smaller and rural.”
Petlon and Lee also coordinate a spaghetti dinner each March to thank veterans. “It’s an outreach for us,” said Petlon. “We prepare the meal and try to get other volunteers if we need them. It’s our way to say thank you to our veterans.” The dinner also has speakers from VA hospitals and offers programs on eligibility enrollment and suicide prevention.
The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 563-927-5116.
Petlon advises veterans or their families to contact the agency, even if they aren’t certain they qualify for benefits or programs. “We don’t make that determination, but we can help file paperwork and start the process,” Petlon said. “We can’t promise everything, but we will certainly be here to try.”
Petlon and Lee say the sacrifice of service veterans is something everyone should remember.
“They deserve our respect,” Lee said. “We have things like freedom of press and freedom of speech. I’m not sure our younger generations think about all those things and appreciate they get to do what they do because of a service veteran’s service.”
Petlon added, “We need to thank them. Without them, where would we be today?”