Supporting Veterans

by Lance Nixon

As Administrator Joe Foster of the Montana Veterans Affairs Division sees it, the numbers are clear about why Montana’s veterans must remain a priority with the state.

Montana has more veterans as a segment of its population than just about any other state, and many of them are 55 years or older.

As of Sept. 30, 2014, data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show that there were 99,646 veterans in Montana, of whom 75,312 had served in wartime. More important, nearly half of those are from the Vietnam era or before.

Some 35,105 served during the Vietnam era, 7,831 during the Korean conflict and 3,987 from World War II.

When you consider that the oldest of the state’s 31,210 Gulf War veterans are also entering the senior
citizen bracket, it underscores how important veteran services are for Montanans.

In fact, Foster said, only one other state – Maine or Alaska, depending how you slice and dice the data – has a greater percentage of veterans per capita than Montana does.

No. 2 in the nation in veteran population Foster explains that when Montana’s veterans are estimated against the general population, the state has 12.4 percent of its general population as veterans – higher than any other state but Maine.

And when veterans are taken as a segment of the adult population, Montana has 16.2 percent, higher
than any other state except Alaska.

There might be some economic drivers to why so many Montanans put on their country’s uniform, but Foster said there’s an obvious explanation, too: “I think Montana is a relatively patriotic state, there is that aspect of it.”

And because it has been that way for a long time,many families have military traditions – the children serve because parents and grandparents did.

“It’s sort of self-generating in that respect,” he said.

It’s partly with those numbers in mind, Foster said, that Montana in recent years has increased the
number of state offices working with veterans from seven or eight up to ten. Those ten offices are
crucial, Foster said, for cultivating a “lifetime advocacy relationship” with the state’s veterans to make sure that any injury or condition related to their military service is not left for them to deal with on their own.

“There’s always going to be a high percentage of veterans who, when they get out of service, have
an identifiable condition,” Foster said.

Montana’s Veterans Affairs service offices work with veterans to help document existing conditions from their military service and claim the benefits that by law belong to veterans. The state can also work with veterans when a condition or injury gets worse; or when a new injury or condition that is related to that military service develops.

What Veterans Affairs service offices help veterans with can be conditions or injuries ranging
from a bad back to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Seek out one of the ten offices around the state, Foster recommended, if you are a veteran dealing with an issue that may be related to your military service.

State of Montana Veterans Affairs Service Offices
Belgrade: (406) 388-4601
Billings: (406) 248-8579
Butte: (406) 533-0910
Great Falls: (406) 452-2265
Havre: (406) 265-4225
Helena: (406) 495-2082
Kalispell: (406) 755-3795
Lewistown: (406) 538-3174
Miles City: (406) 232-1203
Missoula: (406) 542-2501

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