December 9, 2021
By: Dwayne Page
The Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veteran Services was in town Tuesday to recognize DeKalb County for efforts made to improve services on behalf of veterans in the community.
Major General Tommy Baker, presented a certificate of appreciation to County Mayor Tim Stribling, signed by Governor Bill Lee, and DeKalb County Veteran Service Officer Bill Rutherford
“I wanted to come down and spend some time with Mayor Stribling and Veteran Service Officer Rutherford and tell them how much we appreciate them supporting the veterans in DeKalb County. They do a great job,” said Commissioner Baker. “They have renovated the office here, posted signage outside, and designated a parking space reserved just for veterans. I just want to say thank you because people at the local level doing things like this are what makes a difference in veterans lives every day. I consider DeKalb County one of our partners across the state helping serve veterans and I just wanted to come say thank you,” added Commissioner Baker.
County Mayor Stribling said he was honored to receive this token of appreciation on behalf of the county.
“I am very humbled to receive this honor and I accept it on behalf of DeKalb County and the county commission. Our new Veteran Service Officer Bill Rutherford does a great job. Of course, Paul Cantrell was our Veteran Service Officer for many years until his untimely death in June, so we had to find another one. I talked to Bill on several occasions, and he stepped up and said he would do it and we appreciate him doing that. We thank the commissioner for coming and recognizing the county for what we do for veterans,” said County Mayor Stribling.
The Veteran Service Office is located on the first floor of the DeKalb County Courthouse (look for new signage posted outside) and is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and although not required appointments are encouraged. The phone number is 615-597-3003. A reserved parking space on the south side of the courthouse has been designated just for veterans.
“I am here as an advocate for veterans to aide, assist, and fill out forms,” said Rutherford.
DeKalb County has almost 1,500 military veterans and many of them, if not all, will need help when the time comes to apply for benefits and entitlements. Rutherford can not only file claims but help in gathering information to support them and track the claims through the system free of charge.
It is important that you use a Veteran Service Officer because, according to Rutherford, he can help you avoid the delays that missing paperwork or improperly filled out claims can cause.
“I can help find records including your DD214. That is a very important form which provides an in-depth look at your military career and character of service. I can also do compensation claims, pension claims and can assist you in getting into a Tennessee Veterans Nursing Home. Although it is a separate entity, I can also help you with access to the VA Hospital System, providing contacts and ways of helping get you in the right direction. I can further help with burial needs. An important thing happening in the next few years is there will be a new veterans cemetery in White County, and I expect a lot of veterans may want to be buried close to home at that veteran’s cemetery. It will be a state cemetery,” said Rutherford.
To provide faster and better service, the local Veteran Service Office can now process claims online.
“The state came in and loaded the (computer) programs and got us up and running so the DeKalb County Office is now all electronic. Its digital so when you come into the office, and I file a claim its going in that day and once it’s loaded up it will come back and verify. That’s important because on an intent to file it puts a place marker and its good for one year so as we work and develop the claim, if you are awarded the claim, it will go back to the date that you initially came in and we filed intent for any back compensation pay. I have access to the VA system to look and see if you are receiving compensation or if you have ever filed a claim. I can see what codes were assigned to your disability and your claim, percentages, and assist if you are asking for an increase in the compensation rate or if you are filing a new claim,” he said.
Rutherford invites all veterans to stop by to see him on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the courthouse office or call if you have questions.
“I do go out to veterans’ homes and am called away from the office sometimes, but I try to be here as much as I can on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Although each county has a Veteran Service Officer, I can assist you no matter where you are from. If you moved here from somewhere else, I could still assist you. I want every veteran to feel welcome to come in,” said Rutherford.