Sullivan to create county veterans service office

J. H. Osborne • Nov 25, 2019 at 3:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission voted three days ago to establish a new county office: the Sullivan County Veteran Service Office with a full-time veteran service officer and full-time secretary/receptionist. The new office, estimated to cost $114,184 per year, is designed to replace the way Sullivan County has helped provide the services of such an office for many years. The county has in the past partially funded the expenses of other organizations providing those services.

Those services, to veterans, veteran dependents and veteran widows in Sullivan County, include assistance filling for compensation, medical benefits and burial benefits in the Veterans Administration system, according to the resolution the commission approved this past Thursday.

The resolution requires the new office to be located in Blountville and cites state law mandating all veteran service officers shall be honorably discharged veterans of the United States armed forces. They shall have the authority to administer oaths and to take acknowledgements related to any matter falling within the scope of authority of their office, including the presentation of claims and other functions incident to obtaining benefits for discharged veterans. No veteran or dependent of a veteran shall be charged any fee for services rendered by a veterans service officer.

The commission’s vote means Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable will review qualified applicants and present to the commission a recommendation for the veteran service officer. The commission’s approval is then required for the recommended person to be hired. The commission approved spending $30,000 from the general fund balance to establish the office beginning in April 2020.

Once the county’s next budget year begins on July 1, 2020, the office will require $114,184 in annual funding, according to an operations budget draft attached to the resolution. The personnel costs associated with the new office make up the bulk of that figure: $63,580 to cover salary and benefits for the veterans service officer and $45,104 to cover salary and benefits for the secretary/receptionist.

The primary sponsor of the resolution was Commissioner Gary Stidham, and original co-sponsors were Commissioners Joyce Crosswhite, Sam Jones, and David Akard.