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Supervisors boost services for veterans

SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to approve additional Veterans Service Representatives (VSRs) to the County’s Office of Veterans Services (VSO) on an immediate basis. 

The positions will expand capacity in the VSO and allow more veterans to get connected to their earned benefits. In October 2023, County Supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee proposed the additional staffing to support local veterans and their families in accessing the federal benefits they have earned. “The goal is simple,” said Simitian, “Serve more veterans, more fully and more quickly.” 

“We ask a lot from our veterans when they enlist, and it’s only right that we keep our end of the bargain when they come back from active service,” said Simitian. “The VSO is where our veterans can go when they need help getting connected to their benefits, and where they can find an advocate.”

Staff at the VSO assist veterans, military personnel, and their families in obtaining federal, state, and local benefits earned through active-duty military service. Benefits provided include disability compensation, non-service connected pensions, education, burial assistance, dependency indemnity compensation, Veterans Affairs (VA) health care applications, and more. 

The new VSR positions are expected to serve a growing number of veterans seeking assistance. Just as important, the new positions are expected to ease caseload growth experienced by existing staff. The increase in cases, in some instances, has limited the speed of service, and the number of veterans served.

“The additional staffing at the Veterans Services Office will provide hands-on help to our veterans to navigate the complex maze of the VA system. This is vital to assist our local heroes to access the resources and benefits they have earned. We affirm our strong support for our veterans as they reintegrate into civilian life, especially suffering from the trauma of combat, and our aging veterans who served in Korea and Vietnam,” said Supervisor Lee and retired U.S. Navy veteran.

The cost of the new positions is offset in part by federal revenues. The positions also general substantial benefits. In fiscal year 2022-2023, VSRs brought in nearly $16 million in benefits to County veterans, helping to ease the burden on County resources. These benefits have the additional value of being spent locally in the communities where our veterans live. 

“Ultimately, the goal is to help our veterans;” said Simitian, “More of them, and more quickly. Expanding capacity is the first step. These new positions can have a life-changing impact on our veterans, and over the long haul we’ll have a much stronger, more responsive organization as a result of this effort.”