Kratochvil learning as new VSO
Park River native working to help veterans in county
GRAFTON – Park River native Chris Kratochvil has been on the job as Walsh County’s Veterans Service officer for nearly two months. He took over for former VSO Katrina Hodny on July 16. In that short period of time Kratochvil said he has learned a lot and expects to learn much more as he gets more familiar with his new position.
Kratochvil, the son of Wanda and Jim Kratochvil. He married his wife Catherine in 2010. The couple is currently in the process of relocating to Park River.
Kratochvil graduated from Park River High School in 2004. He graduated from UND in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice.
While in school in 2006, he enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard and went through his basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. He went through his advanced individual training (AIT) at Fort Gordon, Ga. He was originally trained as a radio operator.
Kratochvil has been deployed overseas twice, serving in Kosovo for 10 months as a radio operator between 2009-2010. He also served in Kuwait for 13 months beginning in 2011 where he was reclassified as a 12R or interior electrician and did a lot of construction and repair work on base.
He said his deployments were a good life experience for him.
“I think more people should experience it,” he said. “It definitely gives you a different perspective on what it means to be a citizen of the U.S. We have it pretty good in the states compared to some other parts of the world. It also teaches you self reliance and the virtues of discipline.”
Kratochvil is a sergeant, E5, currently serving with the 426th Signal Co. based in Fargo as a signal support systems specialist.
Contrary to popular belief, the veterans service office is not associated with any military branch or the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Walsh County Veterans Service Office is an independent office, and the Veterans Service officer is paid by the county and answers to the county commissioners.
It’s mission statement is to assist veterans, widows of veterans, children or other eligible relatives of veterans in making claims for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
There are a wide range of benefits available in certain cases including applications for service connected compensation, pensions, health care and prescriptions, education loans and burial benefits.
“We work with the veteran to fill out the necessary paperwork to submit claims to the VA,” Kratochvil said. “We don’t actually work for the VA, we work free-of-charge to the veteran. My allegiance is purely to the veteran and their issues.”
Kratochvil said a lot of the claims he assists with are medical. Part of his job is to help the claimant prove that his or her disability or need was incurred or aggravated during active military service.
Kratochvil said some veterans of active duty military service are eligible for pension benefits depending on their present income.
He said he also refers eligible veterans to services not necessarily related to the military such as low income assistance through the Red River Regional Council and other regional and state assistance programs.
“If we get a situation where a veteran does not qualify for the VA benefits, we will try at that point to refer them to other agencies that might be able to assist them,” he said.
Kratochvil said he’s gone through training, has more coming up in September, and still has a lot of learning to do.
“There’s a lot of stuff involved and a lot of ins and outs,” he said. “Every veteran who walks through the door has a slightly different need. So you really have to listen to what they are saying.”
Kratochvil said many veterans may not know what they need or what they are eligible for. He said he enjoys his job as VSO and likes the challenge of finding ways to help.
The Walsh County Veterans Service Office is located in the Administrative Building next to the Law Enforcement Center at 638 Cooper Avenue in Grafton.
He encourages veterans or eligible relatives of veterans who feel they might be eligible for assistance to contact him. He can be reached by phone at (701) 352-5030 or via e-mail at email@example.com. The Walsh County Veterans Service Office website is www.walshcountynd.com/veteran.