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Mineral County has new Veteran Service Officer

by MONTE TURNER
Mineral Independent | May 15, 2024 12:00 AM

An estimated 84,000 veterans live in Montana.

Sanders County has more veterans per capita than any other Montana county, standing at 15.2% (1,400 veterans) and Mineral County is in fourth with 14.8% (515 veterans). 

Cascade County takes second place with 15.1% (9,183 veterans) and third place goes to Prairie County at 14.9% (133 veterans). 

Jackie Lamb has been the Montana Military Affairs Veterans Service Officer (VSO) in Mineral County since September of 2021, but is moving out of state. She has been a great help to veterans by coming out once a month, saving them the trip to Missoula on veterans concerns and benefits. 

Her replacement is well known to the veterans in Sanders County because Sara Ball has been their VSO for five years and will now handle County 54, as well.

“I’m sticking with Jackie’s schedule which is the second Wednesday of every month at St. Regis Post 13, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and I highly recommend appointments,” she smiles.  “I don’t want to rush my time with the scheduled veteran so that we can go over everything they need without an interruption.” 

Ball schedules her appointments back-to-back leaving very little time so drop ins will be hit and miss. However, Plains is a "must" with scheduling an appointment when she sets up shop in the VFW on the first Tuesday of every month. 

Ball is originally from Helena but moved to Missoula 21 years ago. She spent eight years in the Army so she’s walked-the-walk. 

“I was at the end of my enlistment. I had just returned from Iraq, and I had left a 2-year-old baby when I left. I would not leave him again,” she said. 

Before becoming a VSO, Ball operated in the private sector. 

“I worked in the mental health field for 16 years in adult case management working with adults with severe disability mental illness. It was a supervisory position where I made sure that our clients were connected with the proper resources to ensure that all of their benefits were applied for and their needs were being met.”

VSO’s assist veterans and their families in many ways by educating individuals and groups on what benefits are available from federal, state, county, and local resources. They can assist in completing and filing benefit claims and representing individuals in VA hearings. 

They specialize in veterans’ compensation and pension, health care, education and training, employment, burial and survivor benefits, and military records.

 “When Covid hit, our Thompson Falls monthly visit was canceled and I have not gone up since. With Jackie leaving, I am not going to reopen Thompson Falls until we get another VSO on staff, but ultimately yes, that is a goal,” Ball explained.

Ball’s office is in the Montana Military Affairs office at 1911 Tower Street at the Western Montana Military Cemetery near Big Sky High School in Missoula. She can be contacted at  sara.ball@mt.gov and 406-721-1288.  On a sidenote, veterans who need a ride to their VA scheduled medical appointment can call Marry Jo Berry at (406) 822-2213 for a free trip with the DAV.