NACVSO Member Spotlight
NACVSO Member Monthly Spotlight
Name: Margaret “Muggs” Garvin
County/State: Dane County, WI
Location: Madison, WI
I have over 15 years of experience between my roles as a Tribal and County VSO. I am currently the Assistant CVSO at my home office where we serve approximately 25,000 veterans and family members with 8 office personnel.
Branch of military and YEAR JOINED-YEAR SEPARATED (if applicable):
I served in the Navy from April of 1988 to August of 1992.
How did you become a Veteran Service Officer?
My journey began in 1999 when, as a Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Member, I began working as an outreach specialist. At the time, the department was in its infancy, and we faced many challenges along the way. While working with the Ho-Chunk Nation Veteran Affairs, I gained valuable experience in the field.
In April 2006, I took on the role of office manager for Jackson County in Black River Falls. Over the years, I found myself moving back and forth between tribal and non-tribal veteran-centric employers, always driven by a deep sense of responsibility. As a strong, traditional Ho-Chunk woman, I have always felt a profound commitment to being caretakers of our brothers, fathers, grandparents, and all those who have served. I took my role seriously, recognizing the importance of benefiting tribal organizations and ensuring that veterans, both tribal and non-tribal, receive support and advocacy.
What do you enjoy most about being a veteran service officer?
What I enjoy most about being a Veteran Service Officer is the opportunity to meet with veterans face to face. Building that personal connection and developing trust with them is incredibly rewarding. When veterans open up and share their experiences, both the positive and negative, it's a crucial step in the process. Trust and rapport are the foundation for effectively telling their unique stories and advancing their claims. It's about going the extra mile.
How, if at all, has being a CVSO changed how you view military service?
It's brought me even closer to the veterans I serve like those who have experienced combat. Listening to their stories has deepened my appreciation. Hearing their accounts of the challenges and triumphs they faced during their service has really strengthened my view of military service. Additionally, my role as the Women's Liaison for NACVSO has exposed me to the unique struggles that women in the military can face. I've learned more about the issues women confront during their service simply because of their gender. I recently had the opportunity to meet with the National Association of State Women Veteran Coordinators. This galvanized my dedication to addressing the distinct experiences that women can have during their military service, which can differ significantly from their male counterparts, and some of the current efforts underway to address these differences.
How, if at all, has being a CVSO changed your view of VA?
On the positive side, I love it when claims are awarded. It never loses its magic to see a veterans claim be successful and I applaud VA for being the place where that is able to happen. Also, when spouses are awarded benefits, it's truly heartening. I feel blessed to be a part of a process that facilitates benefits not only for veterans but also for their families.
On the other hand, sometimes, the bureaucratic processes and complexities within the VA can be frustrating. It's tough when we encounter obstacles that delay or hinder the benefits. Despite the challenges, I love what I do as a CVSO and really enjoy taking that message to a bigger stage in my work with NACVSO.
Without divulging any personal information, can you discuss one of your most memorable claim(s)?
There have been so many over the years but recently there was a woman I met during a veterans' powwow. She brought in her husband, who was suffering from brain cancer, into the office. The urgency of the situation was apparent, and our team worked diligently to assist them. I'm pleased to share that we were able to successfully expedite his claim, resulting in a 100% award. This meant that her husband could rest assured that she would be taken care of after he passed away. We play such a critical role in ensuring the well-being and security of veterans and their families during some of the most challenging times in their lives.
What would you want people to understand about CVSO’s or what misunderstanding would you like to see corrected about CVSO’s?
We are not the VA! We may work closely with the VA, but our role is distinct. We are dedicated county, tribal, and state representatives whose primary goal is to advocate for the best possible outcome for veterans. By making this distinction clear, we can ensure that veterans receive the personalized assistance and advocacy they need to lead fulfilling lives after their service.
If you had one request for your legislators or leaders to impact the lives of veterans or CVSO’s, what do you believe would be most beneficial to request?
One request to legislators would be to improve our access to VA healthcare records. This would significantly enhance our ability to serve veterans by providing a more comprehensive view of their medical history, treatments, and ongoing care. Additionally, I think increased partnership for VA-led training opportunities for CVSOs, would ensure we remain the most thorough and effective advocates for veterans. From a tribal perspective, having navigators dedicated to VA health and VA benefits would be invaluable. Many tribal veterans face challenges in accessing up-to-date and effective information about VBA and VHA resources. By addressing these needs, we can better support veterans everywhere.
Anything else you would like to add or let others know about CVSO’s?
That it is the greatest profession in the world! There's so much more to being a CVSO than meets the eye. It's not just about filing claims; it's about building meaningful connections with veterans and their families. We help veterans improve their lives like assisting them with education, finding jobs, securing homes, and supporting their families. We're part of a strong and united group of professionals with a common mission: helping veterans. The impact we make goes far beyond paperwork – it touches the lives of those who've served our country.
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