Gustafson was sworn in at the Beltrami County Commissioners Council meeting on Tuesday, October 19. The oath was read by Gustafson’s predecessor Scotty Allison, who signaled his intention to retire in 2020 and worked with county staff to develop a recruiting and transition plan.
In early April, commissioners approved the hiring of Gustafson for the post, who had been one of 20 applicants. Gustafson began working in the office on April 22, with Allison still working as a leader to help with training.
Gustafson comes to the post after 13 years working for the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office. Born in Minot, Gustafson grew up in Wyoming and entered the military after high school, serving in the United States Army from 1994 to 1999.
After his release, Gustafson attended a design school in Tempe, Arizona, to study computer graphics. However, Gustafson joined the military in 2001 after 9/11 and served until 2004, which included a deployment to Iraq.
After his service, Gustafson graduated in criminal justice from BSU and began working in law enforcement. In his new role, Gustafson will provide advice and assistance to veterans and their family members regarding federal and state benefit programs.
“Thank you for this great opportunity,” said Gustafson. “I am really looking forward to working with the veterans in our community.”
Shane Gustafson, left, is sworn in as the new Veterans Services Officer by outgoing Officer Scotty Allison on Tuesday, October 19, 2021, at a Beltrami County Board of Directors meeting. (Matthew Liedke / Bemidji Pioneer)
Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, Gustafson and Allison addressed the commissioners with an update on veteran statistics in the county. According to the report, 2,967 veterans live in Beltrami County.
The number of veterans in the county has declined over the past decade. In 2010, 3,435 veterans lived in Beltrami County. As of 2018, however, the number has been consistently below 3,000.
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Only 20 of Minnesota’s 87 counties have a larger veteran population than Beltrami. In 2020, Beltrami County veterans received $ 36.18 million in support. The amount of support Beltrami County veterans received has steadily increased from 2010 to 2020 by $ 15.9 million, or 44%.
In 2010, the county’s veterans received $ 20.2 million and in 2015 they received $ 30.06 million. The majority of benefits that support veterans are paid for compensation or pensions. Another great benefit is the support veterans receive for medical care.
In 2020, $ 19.7 million of the $ 36.18 million was spent on compensation and pension services, while $ 15.3 million was spent on meeting medical needs. Other benefits for veterans include education and insurance.
In total, the Beltrami County Veterans Services Office has 990 active compensation files and 137 active veterans and widows pension files. The majority of these veterans, 487, served in peacetime, followed by 302 who served in the Vietnam War.
The county also has records for 119 who served in the Iraq War, 29 in the Gulf War, 27 in the Afghanistan War, 14 in the Korean War, and five in World War II. Additionally, the county has compensation records for six who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as one who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.