The State of Wisconsin has shown interest in the consolidation of services, functions and processes associated with the provision of benefits to those aged and those with disabilities. This desire for a “one stop shopping” facility has evolved into the ging and Disability Resource Center (DRC) concept, a concept being put into practice by a growing number of individual counties and consortiums of counties throughout Wisconsin. This has resulted in a growing number of counties questioning the role that County Veteran Service Officers (CVSO’s) can or should play within an DRC. It is our position that the CVSO should remain separate and distinct from the DRC, for the following reasons:
CVSO’s are first and foremost veteran advocates. They function as the liaison between veterans, the dependents and survivors of veterans, and the benefits to which they are entitled. These benefits are federal, state, and local benefits. Veterans are a recognizable and distinct population, with some needs common to the general population, and most needs specific to just veterans. Likewise, most of the benefits to which veterans are entitled, and the means of claiming or accessing those benefits, are specific to veterans only, and found nowhere else in government. Veterans are old, young, male, female, disabled and non-disabled. The fastest growing veteran demographic is in fact within the “under 30” age group coming back from Iraq and fghanistan, and it is a minority of all veterans who are disabled. Veterans as a population do not fit neatly into the DRC target demographic.
Wisconsin Statutes (Chapter 45.80(5) (e) specify that CVSO’s shall perform their duties “separately and distinctly from any other county department.” The State has recognized that the functions performed by CVSO’s for veterans are in fact specific and narrowly focused. The idea that CVSO offices could “maximize efficiency” through “cross training of staff” within an DRC, an idea often noted in arguments supporting absorption of CVSO’s into DRC’s, is simply wrong. Sharing of staff would serve to reduce office effectiveness and efficiency due to the extensive level of knowledge required to deal with veteran benefits, and the inability of a part-timer, regardless of desire or motivation, to have that required level of training and experience.
Finally, CVSO offices already work closely with all the entities that would fall under the DRC concept. CVSO’s routinely refer veterans to other County functions (ging, HSS, Public Health, Economic Support, etc.) on a regular basis, when appropriate. CVSO’s, as advocates, are charged with helping veterans get what they need from whatever source available. CVSO’s are already part of the DRC “team,” and should remain so, but outside the umbrella of the DRC concept. There is no need to share a roof in order to share customers.
The CVSO ssociation of Wisconsin would suggest that CVSO offices remain separate and distinct from the DRC as required under state statute, but that the relationship between CVSO and DRC be formalized (if necessary) via written Memorandum of Understanding.
For information on any veteran benefit, contact your County Veterans Service Officer whose phone number is in the blue or white pages of your phone directory or available on the website: www.wicvso.org.