Veterans in Nebraska and across the country will now receive state of the art service thanks to the new Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Lincoln.
A ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday marked the opening of the office. Delegates include Governor David Heineman, Senator Mike Johanns, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and Mayor Chris Beutler spoke at the dedication ceremony.
"Of course it is important to celebrate the opening of a new building," Fortenberry said. "But perhaps it is more important to celebrate what it represents. The building of lives, The building of patriotism, The building of opportunity, for those who have so honorably served us."
The $14 million building is a first-class, 21st century facility where veterans and their families can come for assistance in obtaining the benefits they have earned in service to their country.
"This event signifies the continued commitment the VA has to Nebraska veterans," said Loren Miller, Director of VA Regional Office in Lincoln.
The Regional Office has over 60,000 usable square feet which provides space for over 200 full time employees and veterans service organizations including the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
The Nebraska Veterans Affairs Regional Office plans to hire 75 more employees by the end of the year, bring the total number of employees to 270.
The new office in Lincoln will be used as a model for veterans affairs offices across the nation. Nebraska is above the national average of claims processed. The national average to process a claim is 160 days. The Lincoln office processes claims in 90 days. Nebraska processed 14,101 benefit claims this year. Because of the high quality of work, the office will be processing claims from other states across the nation in addition to Nebraska claims.
"Its a great building," Heineman said. "Its a wonderful building, but its what you do for the veterans that count. Its that commitment and that dedication that makes and huge difference for them."
The Regional Office has jurisdiction for the entire state of Nebraska with an estimated population of 153,000 veterans. The Regional Office is responsible for the administration of veterans benefits, estimated at $308 million in 2009. The benefits include disability compensation and pension, survivor benefits, and vocational rehabilitation and employment assistance.
"I'm glad this day finally got here," said veteran Jim Powish. "These employees have got a place to go to work. It looks like a nice facility so that ought to help them help the veterans."
The new building is located at 40th and Old Cheney. It replaces the office at 48th and Old Cheney, which was rented space.