CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield County Commissioners on Tuesday created an advisory committee in response to concerns that have been voiced regarding the operation of the Clearfield County Veterans Affairs Office.
“In recent weeks, the commissioners have heard from both sides. We have heard from people who favor the program and office staff, but others have expressed some concerns about the way the office runs,” Commissioner Chairperson Joan Robinson-McMillen said.
According to her, the seats on the advisory committee will be filled by veterans, and it will operate similar to those in other county departments, such as the Children, Youth and Family Services, the Solid Waste Authority and the Emergency Management/911.
She said that the Veterans Advisory Committee will consist of five to seven or as many as nine members, depending on the response. She said the applicants will be screened accordingly so that there is a diverse membership among the members of the committee.
Committee members will be selected from all areas of Clearfield County. For instance, if the committee has five members, there will be one from both the Clearfield and DuBois areas, as well as three from other areas in the county.
If the committee has seven to nine members, there will be two each from Clearfield and DuBois, and three or five from other areas, Robinson-McMillen said. She added that members will, too, be screened based on the military branch and conflict for which they served in.
“The final committee will be a diverse group with veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard who served during World War II, the Korean Conflict, in Vietnam, in Desert Storm and the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” she said.
Robinson-McMillen said that consideration would be given to an applicant’s work and professional experience and any participation in veteran-related organizations. Because committee members will be asked for recommendations on office operations, program development and to review how federal veterans affairs regulations are implemented, it will be necessary that members possess “experience and knowledge” of business practices, federal veterans affairs programs and employee and labor management laws, she said.
During the first four to eight weeks after its formation, she said the commissioners will ask for the committee to meet as many times as necessary to resolve several outstanding issues concerning veteran services in Clearfield County. Once these initial issues have been resolved, the committee will most likely meet on a quarterly basis.
At these quarterly meetings, committee members will be asked to review ongoing operations of the Veterans Affairs Office, any compiled statistics, including claims filed versus the number approved, the number of veterans served by the office and the transportation program and any outstanding problems submitted by the veterans or their families.
Following the quarterly meetings, the committee may select specific recommendations to the commissioners regarding changes and enhancements in order to provide better services to county veterans and their families. The committee will also serve on an as-needed basis, as the arbitration panel in the event of a submitted written complaint or grievance against any staff member, services or programs provided by the Veterans Affairs Office.
“The commissioners will still be in charge of the Veterans Affairs Office,” Robinson-McMillen said. “. . . The creation of this committee will give veterans of Clearfield County a defined and organized process to resolve issues.
“The committee will consist of highly respected veterans, will serve as the contact point for veterans and related groups and will provide a fair and impartial review of any issues impacting veterans in the county.”
Commissioner John A. Sobel said the board wanted to take “a hard look” at how the veterans are being served across the county. According to him, they want to hear both sides – the good and the bad – and will take it “very seriously.”
“We have been hearing both sides really. We’ve heard some really positive things, but we’ve also had some complaints come out of this,” Commissioner Mark B. McCracken said.
“Once thing from the public meeting in Dubois, someone said that they didn’t have a voice. This committee will give our veterans a voice by which they can be heard. We have taken politics out of the equation.”
The commissioners will accept letters of interest immediately through March 16, with the committee appointments to be announced shortly thereafter. Letters should include military service experience, any membership in veterans’ organizations and business and professional experience.
All letters should be submitted to the Clearfield County Commissioners, 212 East Locust St., Suite 112, Clearfield, PA 16830.