Faces of 2013: Elgin’s Jacob Zimmerman, Kane VAC work to improve lot for veterans
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org @DanaheyECN December 26, 2013 8:58PM
Jake Zimmerman, superintendent of Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission, sits in a meeting of the Hampshire American Legion Post 680 in May. | File~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 28, 2014 6:03AM
This is another in a series of stories on people and events that shaped our local communities in 2013.
GENEVA — In March, Jacob Zimmerman started his job as superintendent of the Kane County Veterans Assistance Commission, with a top priority making sure those who served are aware of any aid that might be available to them and running an office that works to make sure any claims are expedited and processed in a relatively timely manner.
“There are a lot of benefits that many veterans don’t know are available to them,” Zimmerman said.
For this fiscal year, Zimmerman said, “The VAC brought in $2,269,839 in new VA compensation or pension benefits for our clients. That figure does not include savings that veterans saw from utilizing Veterans Administration Health Care, nor does it include GI Bill benefits.”
At the start of the 2013 fiscal year, Zimmerman, an Elgin resident, said the office held one accreditation, from The National Association of County Veterans Service Officers.
“Now we are also accredited with the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Retired Enlisted Association, and Vietnam Veterans of America,” he said.
The office also has been emphasizing outreach initiatives, going out into the community to reach veterans and inform them of their benefits. This has included going to American Legion and VFW posts, reaching out to veterans attending colleges and universities in the county, and setting up booths at events such at the Vietnam Wall exhibits that toured Aurora and Elgin.
Currently, the office has been working to obtain access to its clients’ VA files by utilizing new technology solutions that the VA recently implemented.
“We’ve received access to the Veterans Benefits Management System which allows us to log in and see our claimant’s VA file and the adjudicator’s notes. This helps us to make sure that the VA has everything they need , and it helps us to see if anything is wrong with the claim before it gets to the decision — and then we could correct that,” Zimmerman said.
The office also is moving to filing claims digitally with the VA through its new “Stakeholder’s Enterprise Portal.”
“This not only will benefit the veteran with quicker claims adjudication but also will save the VAC money in postage and copying expenses. Right now we currently make three copies of a claim when we complete it _ one to mail to the VA, one for the claimant, and one for our records. Soon we will be able to just need one copy. We will be able to scan that to the VA and in to our database and the hard copy would be for the veteran. We also have mailed our claims certified to the VA to prove date of claim, so we will no longer have to spend more than $3 in postage to mail each claim,” he said.
As such, for 2014, Zimmerman said the VAC office plans to continue more outreach in to the community and to embrace technological solutions that the VA has provided, “to help our clients and maximize veteran benefits.”