Tara Balliet celebrates 20 years of helping veterans

Veterans Service Office Director Tara Balliet: still helping veterans two decades later

By Sheri Trusty, Seneca County Media Relations Coordinator

This month, Seneca County Veterans Service Office Director, Tara Balliet, will celebrate 20 years as one of Northwest Ohio’s most passionate advocates for military veterans. Balliet began her career in Wyandot County in 2004 and has worked as the director of the Seneca County office since 2010. She is a military veteran who served with the U.S. Navy from 1992 to 1996.

This month, Seneca County Veterans Service Office Director, Tara Balliet, is celebrating 20 years of helping local veterans.

She joined the Navy right out of high school.

“I wanted to see the world,” she said. “And I did.”

Balliet served as an Operations Specialist focusing on navigation radar and secure communications aboard the USNS Joshua Humphreys replenishment oiler.

“It was a supply ship. We refueled and gave supplies to carrier groups. It was basically a floating 7-Eleven,” she said. “We went from the top of Ireland clear down to Egypt and everywhere in between.”

When her service ended, Balliet thought nursing would define her next season of life, but about halfway into her schooling, she realized she wanted to seek a different path.

“I started college to become an RN, but at the end of the second year, I had an epiphany. I realized every person I met every single day would be sick or dying, and I didn’t know if my heart could take that,” she said.

Balliet moved back to Ohio and worked for a time as a chiropractic assistant before learning that the Wyandot County Veterans Service Office was looking for a director. She had high hopes about the job, until she learned she was facing a lot of competition. Believing she had no chance of getting the position, she set aside all pretense and walked into the interview.

It turns out, the real Balliet was exactly what they wanted.

“There were over 50 applicants, so I went into the interview and let it rip. I went home and didn’t have my pantyhose off before they called and said I had the job,” she said.

In 2010, Balliet accepted the director’s job in Seneca County.

“I have the absolute best job in the world,” she said. “Every day isn’t easy, but every day is fulfilling because I get to help veterans. These people really paid a high price, and some still do.”

Balliet said there is some confusion about her office. People mistakenly believe the Veterans Service Office is a Veterans Affairs (VA) office, but it is not.

“I’m a county employee,” she said. “I help veterans. That’s what I do. I file claims and sort my way through veterans’ problems.”

Part of Balliet’s job is educating veterans about benefits eligibility, including informing National Guard and Reservist veterans of assistance they may not know is available. Under normal service, National Guard and Reservist veterans are not eligible for the same benefits as active duty military personnel, but that changes once they activate under Title 10.

“They don’t always realize that,” Balliet said. “Once they activate under Title 10, they are eligible for the same benefits. After 9/11, lots of reservists went overseas under Title 10.”

Balliet can help all veterans apply for benefits, including VA healthcare, compensation for injuries incurred during service, and pension with aid and attendance benefits for veterans no longer able to care for themselves.

“If you’re in need of nursing care, reach out to our office to investigate the possibility of applying. If you were hurt in the military or exposed to chemicals, reach out,” she said. “We’re always trying to get the word out to veterans about the benefits available to them.”

Although Balliet joined the military to see the world, the experience simply pulled her back home.

“I saw the world, but this area of Ohio is really a wonderful place to live. Do you ever think about women in Gaza when you wake up in the morning? Do you think about women in Israel when you leave your home?” she said. “I don’t think people realize how lucky we are to live here.”