“We’re going to beef up the budget in order to accommodate another service officer,” Weber told the Journal-News. “We are planning to expand, we’re advertising to expand and we plan to hire to expand.”
While the board is not affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs — it is an arm of county government — it offers services like emergency cash, assistance for veterans navigating the Veterans Affairs system, transportation to medical appointments, and help finding local services for legal issues to marriage counseling.
The vet commissioners are adding a new dental service next year because only 1 of every 17 veterans receive dental care through their VA benefits. Commissioner Bruce Jones said they budgeted $100,000 to $150,000 for the program that has already received a lot of support.
“We’ve had a lot of dentists jump onboard saying they’d be willing to get in the program with us,” Jones said. “Which is nice.”
The program is part of the $750,000 the board budgeted for financial assistance, transporting veterans to medical appointments is expected to cost $660,000 and food assistance was penciled in at $215,000.
The commission, which is responsible for helping about 26,000 veterans, is funded by a percentage of the general fund millage the legislature carved out to help veterans. Farmer said they have about $4.4 million available for expenses.
The board is autonomous but the county commissioners still set the final county budget. The county commissioners asked everyone not to exceed what they actually spent in 2019. That year expenses were just under $2.4 million and the vet board returned $580,859 to the general fund.
Weber said they are spending beyond that request for a good reason.
“We’re in support of a very special group of people in our county ...” Weber said. “We wanted to maintain the services for veterans, we wanted to try to get back into full speed ahead after the horror show of the pandemic last year.”