Funding Change Leads To Problems For County Veterans Service Offices

Some county organizations that help veterans say a change in how they’re funded is hurting services they can provide.

County veterans service offices provide everything from counseling to making vets aware of benefits available at the state and federal level. They used to get block grants from the state, but now, they have to apply for reimbursement under a change made in the last (2015-17) state budget.

Kevin Johnson, the county veterans service officer for Ozaukee County, said that the change has left them confused.

“The biggest frustration for us is there’s no clear guidance on what the criteria for reimbursement are or, more importantly, how to document the expenses,” he said.

Johnson said that the documentation is also leading to problems.

“The way it’s now structured, we have to apply two times a year and it’s becoming so onerous, the documentation requirement is so onerous that it’s just cost prohibitive for us even to request the funds,” he said.

Johnson said the office were seeking reimbursement for salaries and other expenses. Critics say state money should support veterans directly, not administrative costs. The state budget change will eventually phase out salaries for the offices.

Johnson said that at the very least, the state Department of Veterans Affairs should provide clear guidance on how to obtain needed funds.

The Department of Veterans Affairs didn’t return a request for comment.

A sampling of 30 counties showed 10 veteran office grant requests were denied entirely. Fourteen were denied in part.