Placer County’s veterans advocate is District 3 Employee of the Year

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Rocklin’s Rick Buckman is something of a magician as he works inside the confines of county government. He doesn’t pull rabbits out of a hat though or make cards disappear. But for veterans, he’s the magic man. What he does is make money appear for U.S. military veterans who may have no idea it’s out there for them. And the totals he has brought in since hiring on as Placer County’s veterans service officer four years ago are counted in the tens of millions of dollars. District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes has chosen Buckman as his District 3 Employee of the Year. He will be honored at this year’s State of the Community Dinner in Auburn May 7. Buckman, 62, works out of the new Veteran’s Service Office in Rocklin after spending his first four years with Placer County in the former North Auburn location. He grew up in Long Beach and was drafted in 1967. He ended up staying in the Army, working on missile programs in German, Italy and Japan as well as in the United States, and rising to the rank of warrant officer before retiring in 1988. For four years after retiring, Buckman had a work-study job with the Humboldt County Veteran’s Service Office while going to school at California State University, Humboldt. There was a job opening at the office when he completed his undergraduate work and he took it. “I don’t think anyone grows up wanting to be a veteran’s service officer,” Buckman said. “But it’s got to be one of the most rewarding things you can do.” Four years after taking the Humboldt County job, Buckman was named the veteran’s service officer for Mendocino County and moved to Ukiah. He remained there until the opening came up with Placer County in 2006. “It wasn’t the best-run outfit in the world when I got here but by the end of the year, I had found $750,000 in new dollars that went into the pockets of veterans,” Buckman said. Word-of-mouth brings more veterans to his office as they learn that another had been able to increase benefits or get new ones. In 2006-07, Buckman found another $4 million. That increased to $11 million two years ago and $22 million last year. “And we’re almost up there already this year,” Buckman said. “A lot of veterans don’t have a clue they’re eligible for benefits. They usually find out about us because another veteran told them. The more guys who are out there telling people, the more benefits there are. I can get almost anybody anything.” Holmes said Buckman has a reputation for being one of the best – if not the best – veteran’s service officers in the state. “Others are calling him and asking ‘How did you do this?’” Holmes said. Holmes said people have come to him praising Buckman’s work. “One veterans from World War II was getting $250 a month and when he died John was able to find out for his widow that she was due over $1,000 a month,” Holmes said. “A lot of veterans don’t know they qualify.” Another veteran in North Auburn was receiving $250 monthly and learned through Buckman that he should be receiving $2,000 a month, Holmes said. Holmes plans to present Buckman – a father of three and grandfather of 10, who has been married to his high-school sweetheart for 42 years – with the county award at the May 7 ceremony. “He’s done just an outstanding job,” Holmes said. ------------------------------ Know and go What: Auburn State of the Community Dinner When: 6 p.m. Friday, May 7 Where: Sierra Building, Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., Auburn Cost: $37.50 Info: RSVP by May 3 by calling (530) 885-5616