Stanko expands role, continues to provide voice for veterans
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the past three decades, Jim Stanko, who reached the rank of sergeant while serving with the U.S Army from 1970 to 1972, has provided a voice at the local, state and national levels when it comes to veterans affairs.
Stanko will expand his national role after being named as a member of the National American Legion Executive Committee. He is one of two representatives from the western part of the U.S.
“I guess that’s still my main cause on this executive committee — is that I hope to be at least one of the voices for rural veterans,” Stanko said.
The local rancher has served on the American Legion’s National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission since 2012 and also spent seven years on the Colorado State Board of Veterans Affairs, including two as chairman.
“That’s the state board that advises the governor on veterans affairs,” Stanko said.
The national American Legion organization is made up of four subcommittees, including the Health Administration Committee, which includes the National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission; the National Cemetery Committee, which regulates national cemeteries; the Benefits Committee, which assists veterans in pursuing claims, understanding their rights and obtaining their benefits; and the TBI/PTSD Committee that strives to expand awareness and advance research into effective therapies and treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and the effects of military sexual trauma.
Members from each of those groups fill the spots on the executive committee and become a voice for the veterans they represent.
“We’re one of the main pillars of the American Legion,” Stanko said. “Our job is to oversee program services and advocacy efforts to improve the lives of veterans and their dependents.”
“I’m really honored to be appointed to this,” Stanko said. “I’m approaching 10 years on the committee, and I was vice chairman of the Health Administration Subcommittee for four years. I’ve been involved with them for a long time, so somewhere along the line, I did some things that kind of put my name in the front.”
Hal Matthes, commander of the American Legion Leo Hill Post No. 44 in Steamboat Springs, said it is an honor to have Stanko working for veterans on the national level.
“It’s very prestigious,” Matthes said. “Jim has been on other national commissions before, and I’m sure that’s why he was selected for this because he is very familiar with the organization and has taken an interest on the national committees.”
Matthes said Stanko will play an important role in promoting, protecting and expanding veterans rights, especially for those living in rural areas like Routt County.
Stanko points to the Choice and Accountability Act that was transformed into the VA Mission Act, which now offers veterans in rural areas an opportunity to get health care using telehealth technologies and, when needed, to get care in their local communities. He is also proud of efforts to create the VA Family Caregivers Assistance Program, which provides comprehensive assistance, support and services for those taking care of veterans.
“I really feel that we have made some good progress, and it just wasn’t me,” Stanko said. “It’s taken a lot of people and the help of national organizations like the American Legion and VFW.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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