When veterans need help with securing their Veterans Administration benefits, filling out the required forms to apply for services, or just need more information, Veterans Service Centers across the state are there to help.
In Scotts Bluff and Banner counties, the person to call is John Brehm, a Korean War Army veteran who’s been with the center for the past 46 years.
“We help veterans through the process of applying for VA benefits they’ve earned for their service,” Brehm said. “Those include compensation benefits for injuries resulting from their time in the military and applications for the VA medical centers.”
Brehm’s office also works with the wives and widows of veterans to assure they receive any benefits to which they’re entitled.
And on Fridays, Brehm does contact work at the Western Nebraska Veterans Home to help process applications for residence to the home.
He said the majority of the veterans from this area go to the Black Hills VA Treatment Hospital in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Because the hospital has a community based outpatient clinic in Scottsbluff, it’s much easier for a veteran to have preliminary work done locally before being admitted at Hot Springs.
“Our office runs two Disabled American Veterans vans out of Scottsbluff to transport vets,” Brehm said “One goes to Hot Springs and the other to the VA hospital at Cheyenne. We’re available on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with volunteer drivers. And because the VA keeps the title and provides needed gas and maintenance, those vans don’t cost the county anything.”
Working with other veterans’ organizations is another part of the Brehm’s outreach. Along with the American Legion, they organize the annual County Government Day where high school students learn about how the county functions as a part of the state’s overall government.
He also works with the VFW on the annual Veterans Day parade and other activities for that day.
“We have coffee the morning of Veterans Day at the veterans’ home in Scottsbluff,” Brehm said. When they were younger, most of those veterans helped out with Veterans Day programs. Our being there helps them feel like they’re still a part of what we do.”
Another important part of Veterans Day that Brehm’s office helps coordinate is the Memorial Avenue of Flags with flags flying the length of Broadway, West 27th Street and East Overland.
While Brehm estimated there are about 2,600 veterans in Scotts Bluff County, his office helps any veteran seeking assistance, whether they live in Nebraska or another state.
Brehm said his job is information driven. County Veterans Service directors often consult with each other on the best way to resolve an issue. It might even require a call to the state office for clarification on the latest requirements issued by the VA.
Brehm has posted so many years of “serving those who served” that Scotts Bluff County dedicated its memorial park in his honor. He called it one of the highlights of his career.