By Wayne Gates –
The Brown County Veterans Service Commission serves veterans in Brown County, regardless of status or length of service.
“Our mission is to help provide the benefits, both federal and state, that they are authorized or entitled to under the current laws,” said Chief Veterans Service Officer Ralph Fox.
“We provide them with financial assistance if they need it and we provide them with (information on) VA benefits.”
Fox said that veterans who seek direct financial assistance are provided with food vouchers or have specific bills paid by the commission. Cash advances are not distributed.
Those eligible for service include honorably discharged veterans and their widows.
The office is staffed by Fox, Veterans Service Officer Cheryl Childers, Administrative Assistant Tammie Ogle and driver Rick Jones. Jones is employed to drive veterans back and forth to medical and other appointments.
One of the functions of the office is to give financial assistance to veterans who have a short term emergency need.
“We do it on a case by case basis. If a person comes in there and needs assistance, the board looks at their application and decides whether they get that assistance or not,” Fox said.
“A person is eligible to seek services from our office three times a year and they have to wait 30 days between each time to use it.”
Decisions on policy and financial assistance are made by the Veterans Service Commission. Current members are President Roger Carter, Kenny Richmond, Ralph Quallen, Reggie McKenzie and Daniel Otto.
The office had an annual budget of $319,816 in 2015, with funding mandated by state law as a percentage of the county general fund budget.
$65,000 of that was set aside for direct financial assistance, of which $41,923 was spent. The rest of the money went for salaries and operating expenses.
According to the Ohio Department of Veteran’s Services, the Brown County Veterans Service Commission assisted 120 veterans in 2015 out of a population of 3682.
Fox said that the 120 individuals were those that received direct financial assistance.
“Our financial assistance budget is $65,000. We’d like to spend that whole amount or more on people that need assistance. But we aren’t going to give it away. We have to be good stewards of the people’s money,” Fox said.
He added that the 120 veterans who received direct financial assistance “(do) not reflect the number of veterans who have come into this office in a years time.”
Fox added that widows and other family members of veterans are not counted in the county veteran population.
Fox said his office would like to serve more veterans and invites anyone who thinks they may be eligible to seek services.
“”Outreach is what it takes to get the word spread around. A lot of it is spread by word of mouth by other veterans just talking to each other,” Fox said.
Anyone seeking services is asked to bring their DD-214, the Department of Defense form that documents military service and discharge information.
Anyone with questions for the commission can call (937) 378-3155.