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Imperial County Board Supports State Increase of Funding for Veteran Services

-Editorial

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors supports a State initiative that would increase funding for veteran services in California. 

California Senator Bob Archuleta (D-Pico Rivera), Chair of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and Assemblywoman Cottie Petire-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), have submitted budget requests to their respective house asking that the legislature increase Local Assistance funding for County Veteran Service Office (CVSO) from $5.6 million per year to $11 million per year.

These offices assist veterans to obtain their earned federal benefits at no cost to the veteran and his/her family. They also have a long and documented record of success in using this funding to help veterans obtain their federal benefits. In the fiscal year 2019-2020, CVSOs statewide served 172,000 veterans, which resulted in the filing of 272,702 claims for veteran’s benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. As a result of these efforts, $542,536,749 was paid directly to California’s veterans.

These offices link veterans to the appropriate programs within the community and can reduce the stress on veterans by dealing with the Department of Veteran Affairs directly.

“County Veteran Services are County employees who assist veterans to obtain their earned federal benefits at no cost to veterans and their families,” stated County Board Chairman Michael Kelley. “The type and range of federal benefits available to veterans are complex and the process of applying for benefits can be very complicated. Most veterans are unaware of the benefits to which they are entitled and those veterans who pursue claims on their own are often denied their full benefits.”

The Board of Supervisors agrees that $5.4 million from the General Fund can be used effectively at the local level to employ new Veteran Service Representatives. They could be placed at one of the 27 military installations in the state that discharge veterans, at federal veteran medical facilities, colleges, local government offices in the community, or innovative collaborations such as homeless task forces.

“Such proactive outreach would dramatically increase the number of veterans that can be reached by the office, thereby increasing the flow of new federal monies into the state, which in turn enhances tax revenue and stimulates the local economies of the state via the economic multiplier effect. Furthermore, by assisting veterans to obtain these federal benefits, it lightens the load on the state and local programs such as Medi-Cal,” Kelley said.

Kelley added that the demand from veterans is outpacing the available staff at the CVSO offices. Many offices have long wait times under normal circumstances. As the stay-at-home order continues and more individuals find themselves out of employment, many veterans will likely contact the offices to access additional financial resources for which they may be eligible.

“These offices do not have adequate manpower to increase outreach efforts and handle the increased workload, to assist underserved demographics. As a result, California’s veterans are missing out on an estimated $1.3 billion a year in federal benefits based on comparison with other states. An estimated 75,000 veterans and their families are not getting the benefits to which they are entitled.”

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