BARNESVILLE The grand opening of Belmont County Veterans Service Commission's new satellite office was held here June 1, giving those in attendance a first-hand look at the workings of the office and the service it will provide veterans.
Prior to the grand opening, the veterans service commission held its regular monthly meeting here, further giving the public the opportunity to better understand the work done by the commission and office staff.
Belmont County Veterans Service Commission President Mick Zingo welcomed the attendees to the celebration at 113 W. Main St., which kicked off the official grand opening event.
Among those attending included the rest of the Belmont County Veterans Service commissioners, with the other veterans service commissioners, Al Parkhurst, Bob Wallace, Chris Ditto, and Dixie Purtiman, representatives of Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Disabled American Veterans posts and American Legion posts.
Belmont County Commissioner Matt Coffland represented the Belmont County Board of Commissioners and Mayor Ron Bischof was also in attendance along with Chamber of Commerce President Tom Michelli and Chamber member John Rataiczak, to name a few.
Coffland thanked those attending and said the Belmont County Commissioners have been working with the veterans service office to meet the needs of the men and women of Belmont County who have served.
Coffland said he was honored to help the commission and veterans service Director Cindy Maupin find a location for the satellite office.
Starting in 2010, Coffland said the current board of county commissioners, Ginny Favede and Chuck Probst, started to allocate the veterans service office its full amount of funding so the service commission would have its full resources available for its programs and to serve the veterans of Belmont County veterans
In 2010, the main office was moved from St. Clairsville to Bellaire. The new location, which is owned by the Belmont County Veterans Service Commission, provides more space and privacy, is handicap accessible and on the bus route, but left a void when meeting the needs of veterans in the western portion of Belmont County. Satellite offices were held at veteran service organizations including Barnesville and Flushing, but the commission wanted to have a permanent location that offered the same kind of privacy and convenience found at the main office. That prompted the commission to open the new satellite office.
"This is a great asset for western Belmont County and for the village of Barnesville," Coffland said.
Veterans Service Commission Secretary Bob Wallace, also spoke, detailing the work done by the veterans commission. According to Wallace, the commission has made some changes to make the office work more efficiently and to provide veterans with better care.
"Everything we do is designed to improve the lives of veterans," Wallace said. "What we do isn't charity, it's not a handout, it's something veterans are entitled to because they put on the uniform and served."
He also said the commission is a huge asset to the county when it comes to claims and services. With its $540,000 budget, the commission is able to bringing in $65 for every $1 spent.
According to Wallace office has gone from having one veterans service officer to four. The office use to have one bus that would take veterans to VA appointments in Pittsburgh, meaning veterans who had early appointments would have to spend the rest of the day at the VA hospital while waiting to come home. The veterans commission remedied that by working with the Disabled American Veterans and the VA to get two large vans, to make an early run and an afternoon trip. That means veterans who go up in the morning can come back earlier and veterans with later appointments don't have wait all day before seeing a doctor.
The partnership also means that the service commission doesn't have to spend its money on fuel, leaving more funds to help veterans. Services available at the Belmont County Veterans Service Office include filing for all Veterans Administration claims including disability, widows' pension and VA healthcare. BCVSO also provides financial assistance to qualifying Belmont County veterans and their families. Financial assistance is for veterans under financial stress and is available to those veterans who are under the office's income guidelines. They can apply for financial assistance to pay for utility bills, rent or groceries.
Other services for veterans and their families have included Thanksgiving and Christmas grocery orders. Last year, the office started a back to school program to provide school age children of veterans in need with back to school supplies. "Coats for Veterans Kids" kickoff in 2011 and this year a new Easter program was tested where the office worked with Sam's Club to provide an Easter ham to veterans meeting financial guidelines. More programs are also in the planning stages.
All services available at the main office are available at the new satellite office. Along with filing VA claims and other assistance for veterans, Jeremy Harrison from the Wheeling Veterans Center will also be at the office on Thursdays to provide counseling services for veterans.
To apply for any benefits or financial assistance, a copy of the veterans discharge papers, DD214, is required. If a veteran does not have his or her DD214 or equivalent, the Belmont County Veterans Service Office can help obtain a copy from the National Archives.
Transportation is provided for veterans, by appointment, on a daily basis to VA facilities in Pittsburgh. Pick-up locations for the daily vans are in Bellaire, St. Clairsville and Bridgeport. Special transportation to other VA facilities is also available by appoint for Belmont County veterans.
For more information about the Belmont County Veterans Service Office, call the main office in Bellaire, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 740-325-1042 or toll free at 1-877-316-0385. The Barnesville Office can be reached on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at 740-619-0326.