Photo: Bill Walkner, County Veterans Services Officer, speaks to the Board of Supervisors during the board’s meeting on Monday, March 6. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
Bill Walkner is the new Veterans Services Officer for DeSoto County and Monday, Walkner said he is looking forward to aiding veterans and their families in the county.
Walkner, a veteran himself, has an office on the second floor of the County Administration Building. He has been on the job officially since Feb. 1.
“My job is to help veterans and their families to the best of my ability to get as many benefits as possible,” Walkner said. “I’m working for other veterans and their families to accomplish that. I’ve been wanting to do this for years. and I feel once I learn the position I can do a lot more to help.”
Most recently, Walkner was working with the American Legion advocating for the Legion’s agenda. He was part of a statewide trip with national commander Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola and then followed Troiola to Washington, D.C. as Troiola laid out the American Legion’s legislative priorities before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees.
One of the major issues that Walkner said veterans are facing regards mental health, especially PTSD, or Post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Veterans face that when considering some of the activities they encounter during their military service.
“I’ve come in contact with people in bad shape with PTSD,” Walkner said. “Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. That was our number one agenda item to convey to our Congresspeople and Senators because we need to do something to increase our mental health capabilities at the VA and take care of these people.”
The primary goal of the Veterans Services Office is to assist these residents in receiving any and all Federal and State benefits for which they are eligible.
Federal benefits include, but are not limited to Compensation, Death Pension, Housebound Assistance, and Aid and Attendance. All benefits are subject to eligibility and approval through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Some of the state benefits include Concealed Carry Permit benefits, Veteran License Plates, Burial Benefits, and much more. All benefits must be approved by the Mississippi State Veterans Affairs Board.
Walkner’s office is located at Suite 205B of the County Administration Building. Hours are from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday.