Providing assistance to veterans in need comes with the job for Kurt Jackson, Director of the Jasper County Veterans Affairs Commission. Jackson has helped veterans file for disability claims, receive pension benefits, and often, provided financial assistance through his office.
Whether it’s help with a rent payment, covering utility bill or providing food vouchers, Jackson’s office is ready to lend a helping hand to veterans in need. In August of 2017 alone, the Veterans Affairs office provided $4,554.08 in assistance to veterans in Jasper County.
Which is why Dan Marston didn’t hesitate to pick up the phone when a former tenant, who’s a veteran, slipped out of town and left Marston with a $144 water bill at his rental property. At their regular monthly meeting last Wednesday, the Veterans Affairs Commission Board voted against the request, even though they have a long history of assisting veterans in the county. However, Marston’s situation isn’t typical.
“The vet ran out and stiffed him for the water bill,” Jackson said. “It’s not typically something that we stand up for.”
During Wednesday’s meeting Jackson brought the issue to the board to get their opinion on the situation. While board members aren’t opposed to helping veterans, this is the first time that they’ve had a request to cover an outstanding bill left by a veteran. Board member Fred Dimon asked Jackson if he had any idea what happened to the veteran. Jackson said he’d attempted to locate him but hadn’t had any luck so far.
“He’s shipped the country, I have no idea where he’s gone,” Jackson said.
Jackson proposed a plan for the board to offer to cover half of the cost of the bill, with the Marston covering the other half, but board members weren’t interested. Getting left in the lurch by a tenant who’s unexpectedly split town is something landlords have to anticipate Dimon said.
“That’s part of being a landlord,” Dimon said.
Dan Marston did not respond to several interview requests from the Newton Daily News.
Without a veteran to make the request, board members were uncomfortable moving forward with paying the bill, concerned that by doing so, they’d open themselves up to similar claims in the future. Board member Jerry Gunderson said having the veteran make the request was critical.
“If the veteran hasn’t asked us specifically I don’t know that I can support that,” Gunderson said.
Board President Marta Ford said she was concerned by approving the request the board would be setting a dangerous precedent. Ford said the landlord became aware of the availability of the assistance after Jackson had previously helped the veteran with a rent payment.
“We want to be able to assist, but we need a veteran to make the request,” Ford said.
Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org