Wabash County continues to rise within the state in terms of benefits received among its veteran population, said Wabash County veterans service officer Samuel Daugherty on Monday.

According to the newest data released by the Veterans Administration, while Wabash County still ranks 49th out of 92 Indiana counties in size based on the number of veterans residing here, it has climbed to fifth overall for benefits received on a per veteran basis.

Wabash County also ranks fifth in the state for the number of its veterans who are service-connected for disabilities with the Veterans Administration.

“This places Wabash County firmly among the top few counties in our state for receiving veteran-related assistance through the Veterans Administration,” said Daugherty. “The upward progressive trend for Wabash County has continued to gain momentum.”

Wabash County again realized a marked increase in veteran benefits of $22.9 million, up substantially from last year’s $21 million.

“It is important to point out that aging veterans from both World War II and the Korean War are passing on at a steady rate,” said Daugherty.

Daugherty said this resulted in a decrease in Wabash’s overall veteran population of approximately 1.7 percent.

The overall county veteran population is down from 2,165 to 2,127 in the past year.

“Wabash County has still managed to increase its focus on veteran assistance programs despite the dwindling veteran population,” said Daugherty. “This is largely due to the outreach programs and practices of the Veterans Service Office.”

Daugherty said the County Veteran Service Office, which includes also Wabash County deputy county veteran officer Belinda Ireland, has worked to benefit county veterans in the past fiscal year despite the office being only staffed part-time and budgeted for 1,000 hours yearly.

Daugherty said their office helps veterans receive are healthcare, disability compensation, burial allowances, educational assistance, vocational rehabilitation assistance, and nursing home assistance. The office tries to maintain standard hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the year.

In May, Daugherty announced that for the second year in a row, the Wabash County Memorial Day services would not be held due in person due to COVID-19.

Daugherty said the annual event had been planned for the North Lawn of the Wabash County Courthouse on Monday, May 31.

However, due to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s continuation of the state of emergency declaration, Daugherty said they had decided to cancel the event.

Daugherty said the ceremony would usually include numerous speakers, service organizations, police, fire, Emergency Management Agency (EMA) workers and other stakeholders and invitees.

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com.