GREENVILLE - One veteran at the time, Les Cooks and his secretary Peggy Freeman are living up to their slogan: "Hunting down benefits for veterans."
...Last year alone, Cooks, who serves as the Hunt County veterans service officer, and Freeman helped veterans receive more than $200,000 in benefits that were due.
There are 8,000 veterans in Hunt County
said.That number increases to 12,000 when taking into account a veteran's family, who can also receive benefits.Cooks, a reserve USAFR lieutenant colonel himself, who says he brings 30-years of experience to the table, said he understands it is sometimes a frustrating process for veterans to navigate through all the governmental bureaucracy.
there to help make the process more manageable and understandable.
"We ask people to be patient, to be positive (and work with the organizations)," he
said."It's still hurry up and wait.Being mad at the system doesn't help anyone.We pride ourselves at getting most of our benefits at (the original) level in Waco.
But, all the patience does usually pay off.Cooks
been able to get several people 100 percent of the benefits owed, and the number of cases he
works keeps growing.
"It's priceless to see the smile on somebody's face when they get their benefits and (see) that the system does work."One of the reasons Cooks can help navigate the system free of charge is because Cooks is employed by Hunt County and the department and its services get funded by tax payer dollars.
"This is a discretionary service," Cooks said."We have been getting outstanding support (from the county staff)," Cooks said.He also works with the Texas Workforce.
In April, Cooks
and Freeman moved their two-man team to the Criminal Justice Center where they have found a new home next to the Hunt County
Despite, perhaps, the stigma of being located right next to the entrance to the jail, Cooks
loves the new digs.
"This location has worked well for us," he
now has privacy, plenty of parking and the location is handicapped accessible.He
also jokes that there is room to park tractors if someone should decide to venture into Greenville on one.
The two's teamwork has helped him win a prestigious award, Cooks
has recently been awarded the Outstanding Officer of the Year Award for 2006-2007 for the entire Dallas region, which includes larger counties such as Tarrant, Dallas, Denton and Collin counties.
"We were competing against large counties, larger staffs," he
said, saying he
was really surprised to be selected.
...Les Cooks presents his secretary Peggy Freeman with an Outstanding Service to the Veterans of Hunt County award recently.
Freeman and Cooks
work together to help get veterans their entitled benefits.