Veteran Services Officer Ric Morgan helps local vets and families access millions in VA benefits
Ric Morgan served as Elbert County’s veteran services officer for over 20 years, though he’s only been paid for the last two. Before that, it was strictly volunteer work, but Ric didn’t need state funding to motivate him for the job—serving the local veteran community is rewarding enough.
One of his first cases was working with a man who’d been experiencing homelessness who was seeking shelter in barns across Elbert. Ric knew he deserved resources and assistance to treat the Vietnam veteran’s PTSD. The individual used the VA benefits Ric helped him earn to purchase an RV. The vet now spends his time traveling around in his mobile home, fishing, and helping other veterans facing similar issues.
Ric makes himself available seven days a week to the 2,200 veterans and their families living in Elbert County. That’s up from 700 veterans when he first started in 1998, a role he took on while still serving active duty in the Navy. His primary job is to help veterans and their families understand which federal, state and county benefits are available to them, and navigate the sometimes-complex VA system to receive those benefits.
Last year alone, VA benefits flowing to Elbert County veterans and their families totaled more than $11 million, which is more than double from ten years ago, and an increase of $3.5 million in the last five years alone.
In the 20 years since he started, the technology Ric uses to navigate benefit claims has changed, but the primary role he plays has remained the same: to sit down with vets and their families, get to know them and their unique struggles, and help them find solutions.
In 2018, for instance, he worked with the widow of a Vietnam veteran who’d died
25 years ago. She had raised their children as a single parent and dealt with extreme financial hardship. With Ric’s help, she was able to link her husband’s death to what is now known to be a complication of exposure to Agent Orange. She’s now receiving full widow’s benefits.
When Ric was in his late 40s, he decided to pursue a law degree. He took the bar exam on his 50th birthday, passed, and now practices as an attorney. This skillset also serves him in this role, for example, when he needs to walk a veteran through the complicated VA appeals process.
The veteran population Ric serves in Elbert County is expected to continue to grow, as Elbert is situated near several growing military bases. He’d like to make sure that every veteran and veteran’s family knows they can reach out to him—he’s easy to get a hold of and always willing to help. We’re fortunate to have Ric as a member of the Elbert County Community.
For more about Elbert County’s veteran services and/or to contact Ric, call 303-520-6088 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit elbertcounty-co.gov/veterans_services.