GREENFIELD — Hancock County’s veterans service officer told county commissioners Tuesday new state-imposed accreditation rules will require more work hours and more money.
Bob Workman, who took over from John Carroll last January as the point man to assist county veterans with questions and benefits claims, said he will be required to log 1,000 hours annually to comply with Indiana House Bill 1387, which requires the state’s veterans service officers to be accredited through coursework and testing approved by the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs.
The county’s veterans service office, located at the Memorial Building at 98 E. North St. in Greenfield, is only open eight hours each week, Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
However, Workman said he probably is already meeting the approximately 20-hour-per-week federally mandated threshold to meet the accreditation requirements with out-of-office visits and calls.
According to the Hancock County auditor’s office, funding for the veterans service office is included as line items in the commissioners’ budget.
The office has a $20,221 annual budget for 2014, with $17,101 going toward the service officer’s salary, county records show.
Should the position go full time, Workman estimates it would cost another $25,000 or so above the office’s current budget, he said.
Commissioners Tuesday, however, were noncommittal on any further expenditures for the office, saying the budget for the year has already been set and noting the need for further cost/benefit analysis.
“Do we need to have a job description for this and match it to hourly (pay)?” asked Commissioner Brad Armstrong. “Right now, it seems pretty lax.”
Commissioners said they would not be in favor of increasing Workman’s salary until they saw a side-by-side comparison of the services and benefits the additional hours and work would produce for the county.
In his annual report to the commissioners, Workman said the county’s 6,271 veterans received almost $26 million in benefits during 2013. The office conducted 276 personal interviews and filed 76 claims for area veterans during 2013, down from 312 interviews and 90 filed claims in 2012, the report stated.
“We’re happy with where we are right now,” Workman said. “We’ll put together a presentation and talk again before the 2015 budget.”
Workman said he would like to see the office have the flexibility in the future to do more than field questions and requests.
“The office has been real reactive as opposed to proactive,” he said.
The law, which became effective last May, requires county and city veterans service officers to become certified by the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs within 30 days of their employment, or, if the officer was employed prior to July 1, 2013, they must attend a course and become accredited to represent veterans by July 1, 2015.
Workman said he has been cleared to take the accreditation course and exam this spring.
“It’s pretty in-depth, and there’s a lot to it,” Workman said of the accreditation coursework and requirements. “But the more training we have, the better we can serve the county’s veterans.”
Staff writer Maribeth Vaughn contributed to this report.