Carroll County's Veterans Service Council has launched a website designed to enable Carroll's more than 14,000 veterans to access services provided by the county.
It includes contact information for state and federal agencies that provide similar services for veterans.
The website includes information regarding veteran services officers, who assist veterans in connecting with various state and federal organizations, obtaining military discharge information, preparing, filing and tracking claims, assisting with denied claims and assessing veteran's eligibility for benefits, compensation and pensions.
It also provides information about the free veterans shuttle offered by the Carroll Area Transit System.
"I've always had a high regard for those who served in the military," said Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5. "I did not [serve], so I have even more respect for those who are willing to make that sacrifice. When I realized what services [Carroll County] didn't have, it was important to find ways to provide them."
Veterans in Carroll County require the same care, consideration and services as all other veterans, said Roberta Windham, county spokeswoman.
In the past several years, the county has made an effort to increase and enhance the services provided. The genesis was a few years ago, Windham said, when several veterans in the community approached Howard with their concerns, mainly pertaining to accessing hospitals outside of the county.
Those concerns led to the establishment of the free veteran shuttle service. As a former executive director of CATS, Howard was able to connect the state's Department of Social Services and the transportation company to form this free service for veterans and their caregivers, she said.
Howard then formed the council, comprised of volunteers and personnel from various state agencies. They determine which services to implement and how to disseminate the information to the public.
"[Improving our services] is one of the most important things [the county has] done in the last few years," Howard said.
Since the council's inception, it has hired two part-time veteran services program coordinators to supplement the efforts of the state's Department of Veterans Affairs. Previously, one of the 15 veterans service officers employed by the state dedicated just one or two days a month serving Carroll County. Howard met with the department and proposed the county hire its own officers as long as the state would agree to train them, which the department did.
The website is the latest creation of the council, Windham said. Since the services provided by the county had grown so much in recent years, Howard said, it was important to simply and efficiently provide this new information to veterans.
"Especially with the younger generation, people get their info from the web," Howard said. "[The website] makes it easy for people to find the resources they've earned."
The council first began discussing the website approximately a year ago, he said. Once they were able to appropriate funding from the county in the spring they brought in a third party to design the website.
The county allocated $5,000 for the construction of the website, and the council was able to do this using only a portion of funds. The remainder will be used for advertising the county's services, Howard said.
"I think they've put together a really nice website," Howard said. "It's simple, not confusing, and will help veterans navigate what can be a complicated process."
Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email@example.com.
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