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Committee Receives Briefing, as County Moves Toward Establishing Veterans Services Agency

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Committee Receives Briefing, as County Moves Toward Establishing Veterans Services Agency

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee today heard a presentation from Deputy County Administrator Lisa Holmes regarding Tompkins County Veterans Services, as the County prepares to establish the County Veterans Services Agency.  The 2019 Tompkins County Budget allocated $100,000 to support the Veterans Services Agency, which is required under New York State Executive Law.

Deputy Administrator Holmes told legislators that County Veterans Services Agencies connects  individuals to U.S. Veterans Affairs (VA) services—compensation for service‐connected disabilities; pension for non‐service‐connected disabilities; compensation/pension to families of deceased veterans; burial benefits and grave markers; life insurance; health care; education and vocational rehabilitation; and home loan guarantees—as well as to military records, Federal, State and local medals and awards, and New York State Blind Annuity benefits.  As of 2017, Tompkins County’s veteran population stood at nearly 4,100, with veterans bringing in $23.4 million of VA benefits to Tompkins County.

Holmes said the Tompkins County Veterans Services Agency will include the full-time Director of Veterans Services, appointed by and reporting to the County Administrator, with an annual salary of $61,739.  Initial location of the Agency is expected to be at the County’s Human Services Annex, where a temporary work station is available at the Office for the Aging, as well as conference room availability for private meetings with clients.

As a first step toward establishing the office, the County Charter must be amended to comply with NYS Executive Law, since the Charter presently designates the Tompkins County Legislature as the appointing authority for the Director, instead of the County Administrator (as the County’s Chief Executive Officer), as is required by the State.  Following the presentation, the Committee, without dissent, recommended both that a public hearing be scheduled February 19, 5:30 p.m., at Legislature Chambers, to take comment on the proposed Charter change, and passage of the new Local Law after that to amend the Charter.

Jim Murphy and Margaret O’Neil, of the Finger Lakes Veterans Peace Coalition, also spoke with committee members about the importance of linking veterans in the county to services they need.  Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne thanked County Administrator Jason Molino for taking the initiative to establish the Veterans Services Agency, saying it has been a priority for her since beginning her service on the Legislature.

The Legislature’s Government Operations Committee also will be briefed at its meeting January 16.