Name: Marshall Bosworth
County/State: El Paso County, Colorado
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Branch of military:
I was an Army Medic for 25 years and retired January 1st, 2012.
How long have you been a Veteran Service Officer?
I have been accredited for eleven-and-a-half years but have served as the Lead VSO for El Paso County for about five years.
How did you become a Veteran Service Officer?
When I was getting ready to retire, I went on terminal in the fall of 2011. I was scouring the web and local papers for opportunities and came across this advertisement for an Administrative Technician, which is kind of like an Administrative Assistant. I read the description and was really inspired by the idea of working with veterans since I am one and meet the minimum requirements. I remember they told me “You know, you will mostly be answering phones and performing administrative support until you get your accreditation,” but I didn’t mind.
From the first day on the job, I fell in love. My first NACVSO Conference was in Atlantic City where I got my accreditation. After that I just kept moving along when new positions in the office became available. I have held every position in our office at some point and am proud to say that our staff has grown from seven to eleven, eight of whom are accredited. This is excellent since we serve a veteran population of approximately one hundred thousand.
What do you enjoy most about being a veteran service officer?
In the Army, we have a saying: “Always improve your fighting position” and work as a team to accomplish this. In this line of work, I get the opportunity to work with an amazing team to improve the fighting position of our veterans. I love working with all generations of vets, hearing about their experiences and their stories. I especially love seeing the evolution of their perspective toward VA. With Vietnam Vets, they went a long time not getting the benefits they deserved. They will come into our office, sometimes, unaware, or unsure if it’s even worth their time. I really enjoy seeing the initial doubt or apprehension regarding their outlook on a claim’s success and, upon receiving a grant, realizing that VA does care and wants to take care of them. We all do. I just enjoy seeing these perspectives change from one of doubt and skepticism to one of pride and appreciation.
Can you discuss one of your proudest moments as a CVSO?
You know, it’s tough. There are so many, and they become accumulative depending on your role. I’d say that one of my proudest moments as the lead VSO for El Paso County would be just recently following a county-wide
PACT Act claims clinic that we hosted. We partnered with representatives from VBA as well as enlisting the help of VHA for enrollment and perform toxic exposure screenings. We promoted the event and had an incredible turnout somewhere between one thousand and twelve-hundred veterans. We then split the claim work across all staff and just spent the whole time getting as many claims filed as possible. It was vital in not only getting these important claims in for veterans but also promoting awareness of what the PACT Act means for so many. It was a huge success, and I couldn’t have been more pleased to see all these advocates working together to get things done for our vets.
What sort of misunderstandings are there about this line of work?
In the spectrum of veteran advocacy, it seems like some organizations can become territorial. In Colorado, we have a saying that a VSO is a VSO is a VSO, regardless of who they are with. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team: the veteran’s team. No matter what organization you are with, your job is to be the best for the veteran-- so be the best! Learn the trade, become the subject matter expert and don’t be shy about sharing your expertise up and down the chain. Continue to learn and grow and back it all up with action. Our success should be measured by the success of our veterans, not some emblem on a business card. That is one reason I am so proud to be a part of NACVSO. This organization understands that the veteran is at the forefront of all that we do.
Speaking of proud moments that relate to this point, attending the first legislative summit in DC really allowed us to translate our “boots on the ground” message in a way that demonstrated our subject matter expertise to lawmakers. Because we are an organization made up of advocates who hold the veteran at the forefront of all that we do, we were able to have an impact across the whole spectrum. This organization values the veteran first and empowers its people to take that message to the Hill as well as back home. It’s incredible to know that we can make a difference from the top to the ground level.
What is one thing you would like to share with all of your fellow VSOs?
We are so lucky to have that face-to-face interaction with our veterans. So many at VA and elsewhere never get to have that experience. Never forget what an honor it is to see a vet from start to finish, know their name, and experience the impact firsthand. For many of us that are also prior military, we are lucky to keep that familiar comradery going without having to do a 25-mile ruck march first. Let’s spread that message across the country until we have advocates everywhere. When veterans win, we all win.