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Hamilton County may add employee to help Veterans Services Office assist veterans, families
Chattanooga Times Free Press - 12/3/2022
Dec. 3—Hamilton County commissioners voiced their support last week for a $35,500 budget amendment that would add a staff member to the Veterans Services Office, which aids the roughly 24,000 veterans in the county.
The new administrative role would enable two existing staff members to focus more time on assisting veterans and their families with things such as disability and pension claims. The employee would help with scheduling, fielding phone calls and handling paperwork. Commissioners are set to vote on the funding this week.
"It's just like an attorney that works a case," veterans service officer Chuck Alsobrook told commissioners Wednesday. "The more time you can slow down and spend on a claim, the more effective it is."
Alsobrook said that when the office first opened in 2016, veterans in Hamilton County were receiving about $92 million in tax-free money per year in benefits.
By helping veterans take more efficient advantage of the financial resources available to them, Alsobrook said, staff in the office brought that number up to $124 million last year. That's money those veterans can spend in the county.
Human Resources Administrator Sandra Ellis said there's an immediate need for the new position. Year-to-date, there have been 21,569 phone calls made to the office.
"One of Mayor (Weston) Wamp's key focus initiatives — even in his campaign — was to focus on the Veterans Services Office," Ellis told commissioners.
The $35,500 budget amendment would cover the remaining six months of the budget cycle, and the position would cost roughly $70,000 for a full year, including benefits. Ellis estimated the annual salary would be a little more than $41,000.
Commissioners had some questions about how the county would finance the new position, but overall expressed resounding support for the move. Commissioner Joe Graham, R-Lookout Valley, said he was involved in hiring Alsobrook in 2016 during an earlier term on the panel.
"Prior to him being hired, I can tell you right now the veterans, at least in the district I represented at the time and I represent now, they were scrambling," Graham said, "and there were hundreds of thousands of federal dollars they couldn't qualify for because we didn't have this position in our county."
The commission is scheduled to consider the budget amendment during a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday on the fourth floor of the Hamilton County Courthouse, 625 Georgia Ave.
"Whenever I got out of the military, I thought I had a good understanding of benefits that veterans can get," Alsobrook, who served about three years in the U.S. Air Force, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press, "but after starting this job, I realized there's a lot out there that people just don't know about."
Contact David Floyd at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @flavid_doyd.
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