GREENFIELD — Hancock County is making it more convenient for veterans to get the help they need.
Next year’s budget covers funding for the county’s veterans service office to hire an additional part-time employee, allowing the office to extend its hours, staying open longer in an effort to accommodate veterans who work during the day.
Veterans advocates addressed county officials earlier this year to ask that they include funding to hire a part-time officer at $20/hour. They told county officials other counties have two or three staff members working in their veterans offices, while Bob Workman is Hancock County’s sole officer.
Providing better service for the men and women who bravely fought in their county’s honor starts with ensuring they’re able to get help when they seek it, said Kurt Vetters, post commander of the local American Legion.
Now, the office is staffed by Workman, who works part-time, and is open two days a week.
Workman is available to meet with residents from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays.
When he is sick or on vacation, the office is closed.
And veterans looking for assistance have to work around a limited schedule.
The county’s veteran service officer’s primary duty is to assist veterans and their dependents with completing the forms and applications related to receiving federal and state benefits, including medical care, pensions, disability compensation and more.
The officer also oversees outreach to healthcare facilities and veterans organizations in the county, serves on various veteran boards and acts as a liaison to the regional veterans affairs office.
Local advocates estimate Hancock County is home to 6,000 veterans.
Many, especially younger veterans, hold full-time jobs, making it difficult for them to visit the office during the day, Vetters said.
Extended evening hours will be a huge benefit to those people, he said.
Furthermore, hiring another officer allows Workman to share his knowledge of benefits with someone else to ensure continuity when it does come time for Workman to retire from the position, Vetters said.
Workman said the new employee will need to undergo training before beginning work sometime next year.