Bier said they lost three veteran service officers in a two-month time frame, which left only two experienced service officers of the five on staff. There are a total of 11 on staff at the agency, including Bier, the service officers, benefits coordinators and office staff. The new service officers are now up to speed in their jobs, she said.
The new space has three offices – one for a service officer, a benefits coordinator, a receptionist/transportation scheduler and Bier — who will be there a couple days a week. There is also a conference room so the commissioners can periodically hold their meetings there. They spent about $3,000 to outfit the new space, and rent will run about $14,000 annually.
Veterans Board President Chuck Weber said he is thrilled the new office is open for business for two reasons.
“We increase our visibility to another part of the county, to a significant part, the second largest community in the county,” he said. “The other is convenience. I don’t want people saying ‘well I know about them, but I don’t want to drive all the way to Hamilton.’ It allows the veterans in the northern part of the county to enjoy the benefits of a nearby location to seek help.”
From 2012 through October of 2015 when the old office closed, the veterans board served 3,776 — an average of 900 a year — veterans out of that office. Last year, 803 Middletown and 105 Monroe residents came to the Hamilton office for help.
While the board is not affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs — it is an arm of county government — it offers a plethora of services like doling out emergency cash, helping veterans navigate the Veterans Affairs system, arranging and paying for transportation to medical appointments, and finding local services for everything from legal issues to marriage counseling.
Bier said there are no plans to open any other satellite offices in the county but they have started increasing outreach efforts in Oxford and West Chester Twp.
“Chuck Weber and I recently connected with the Faith Alliance, which is a faith-based group in West Chester whose goal is to pull people out of poverty,” she said. “We met with their outreach coordinator last week and we are looking at trying to get our information out to the churches in West Chester, because they connect people with social services. We both think we could be a good resource for them, for people who come in for help who are veterans.”
For several years the veterans board has been on mission to reach as many of the estimated 26,000 veterans in the county as they can. This year they have increased advertising with an $81,000 radio and newspaper ad buy and the increased outreach to areas like Oxford.
There will be grand opening celebration at the new Middletown office at 11:30 a.m. April 10.