The Polk County Budget Committee has approved $40,000 to hire a veterans service officer to exclusively focus on helping local veterans.
The county has not had its own VSO, while the number of veterans has continued to grow. That will change in January, should the budget be approved.
Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs is backlogged, with vets waiting to hear back about claims, appeals, or even to see a doctor. The VSOs are often slow to respond to a veteran’s request, sometimes taking weeks to reply to an email.
We hope by having a local representative, it will help ease some of those issues, bringing much-needed relief to those who have given their lives to protect and serve our country and way of life.
A local representative means easier access for veterans. If he or she doesn’t respond, the vet can go to the office and meet him or her face to face.
We are glad to hear the idea is supported by the board of commissioners and the ODVA leaders.
Polk County Administrator Greg Hansen said the program won’t start until Jan. 1, 2017, in part because he isn’t sure where the office will be located or who will staff it at this point.
We can think of a few places to get started, such as the Central Community Resource Center, where people already go to get help with the Department of Human Services, the Salvation Army, and other public services.
We hope Polk County veterans will make good use of a local VSO, and know that part of that will depend on who is hired for the job. He or she should have a positive attitude and be determined to help the veteran rather than push him or her aside and back in the never-ending VA line.
The VA and ODVA aren’t perfect and need many more improvements than we can list here, but Polk County is taking a step toward helping local vets.
That, we applaud.