Commissioners consider additional funding for veterans services

Larry Emig and other members of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners discussed the possibility of allocating additional funding and staff for the Osceola County Veterans Services in order to be able to give assistance to as many local veterans as possible. No decision on creating an emergency veterans services fund was made at the June 19 meeting, but commissioners said they will continue to consider the options. (Herald Review photo/Taylor Fussman)

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Officers with the Osceola County Veterans Services hope additional staff and funding will improve their ability to assist local veterans.

In order to offer assistance to as many veterans as possible, Wayne Stevens with the county veterans services office presented a request to the Board of Commissioners to add a third staff member to the organization and provide an emergency fund for veterans services.

Stevens said last year he and Veterans Service Officer Dave Blanchard assisted more than 450 veterans who came into the office needing help, including spouses of deceased veterans, and received more than 400 phone calls.

However, he explained they are currently behind by more than 150 cases because with only two people working in the veterans services office they don’t have enough time to work with everybody, and having a third part-time employee would help mitigate this issue.

Stevens added having access to an emergency fund would greatly improve their ability to assist local veterans who come to them for help, but the veterans services office has not been able to secure funding from other entities.

“I tried to go through all the other agencies in the system, but a lot of them are out of money a lot of the time, and if we could get the emergency fund set up, what I would like to see is maybe get a board, a three person board, that would help run and govern that money so it’s not spent frivolously,” Stevens said.

While the board agreed Stevens’ request for an additional staff member and funding were not unreasonable, they said there still are details to consider before a decision can be made.

County Coordinator Susan Vander Pol said, “The issue though is still trying to get somebody help. Just because you have the money in budget doesn’t mean you have it in hand to give them, it would still have to go through the clerk’s office. You can’t just hand them cash.”

Although no decision was made at the meeting, the board said they will keep it in consideration and hope to receive further updates about the county’s veteran services.

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