By Blair Ames, email@example.com
4:45 PM EDT, June 12, 2013
The hiring of a veterans service officer this summer will be the second initiative by Carroll County to assist its veterans, who number nearly 15,000.
The county already has implemented a shuttle program to help veterans get to medical appointments in Baltimore and Frederick. The program began operating three days a week, two to Baltimore and one to Frederick, but has since expanded to five days a week.
Mike Sater, assistant adjutant with the Maryland Disabled Veterans, predicts more veterans will begin using county programs when the veterans services officer is in place.
The hiring comes after the county allocated $30,000 in the fiscal year 2014 budget for the part-time position.
The employee will work out of a Veterans Affairs office to specifically handle claims from county veterans and will be trained by the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs. The officer will have full access to the claims system in order to track claims as they are processed through the system, pushing claims through when necessary and preventing claims from becoming stuck.
Sater said that will provide relief to what is now a long and complicated process.
"At this particular moment, you could be looking at 18 months before the veteran hears anything," he said.
Sater added that the current veterans affairs service officer visits Carroll one day a month, seeing at least 15 veterans each visit.
Board of County Commissioners President Doug Howard said he is proud of the shuttle program's progress and anticipates that it will be one of the more important things the board does.
"This is something a community should be doing," he said.
Louise Tinkler, executive director of the Carroll Area Transit System, said that as of the most recent manifest, there are 43 registered clients for the program.
She said the program has cost the county about $3,000 to $4,000 since its inception in December.
The shuttle runs by reservation only, making stops at the Town Mall in Gettysburg at 8 a.m. and the Carrolltowne Mall in Eldersburg at 8:30 a.m.
The shuttle program and veterans services position were both products of a veterans advisory council that began meeting in January. Members of the council include Howard, Sater and Frank Valenti, director of the county's department of social services.
Howard said his hope is that the council becomes a group that helps connect veterans with existing programs to support them.
"There are programs available. They're just hard to find," he said.