Panel outlines vets' needs for Stanislaus County board

kcarlson@modbee.comJune 18, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
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    E-mail: kcarlson@modbee.com

— A commission that spent a year evaluating the needs of veterans delivered its first report to Stanislaus County leaders Tuesday, and officials are certain to hear again from the active group.

Supervisors created the seven-member Veterans Advisory Commission in April 2012, which grew out of a discussion of facility needs for veterans organizations. The county has 30 veteran service groups with a combined membership of more than 7,000.

At its meetings and workshops in the past 14 months, the advisory panel has identified other pressing needs of older veterans and soldiers returning from conflicts in the Middle East. Needs include:

• Public education about local programs for veterans of all ages

• Door-to-door transportation for disabled or homebound veterans to medical appointments

• Affordable housing for veterans, including those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan

• Employment and income assistance

• A central referral system for connecting veterans with programs

After hearing the report, supervisors gave the green light for the commission to work with staff on options for creating a veterans hall and service office. The dream is for a 36,600-square-foot multipurpose assembly hall with space for 500 people and an office for connecting people with job assistance and other services.

Commission members will look for buildings that might be converted and also will research grants and financial partnerships.

Richard Sylvester, a commission member who's worked on facility planning, said groups don't always feel secure attending day or night meetings at the Legion Hall in a crime-ridden area on Santa Cruz Avenue in Modesto.

Besides developing plans for an assembly hall, the volunteers worked with local agencies and the Department of Veterans Affairs to obtain two vans for taking severely disabled vets to medical appointments in the Bay Area.

Commission member Joseph Madden said he discovered several years ago that homebound veterans went without care because they didn't like to use a VA shuttle that runs between the valley and Bay Area medical facilities.

Madden said he transported them for four years. Now, the VA has agreed to pay expenses for the van; about 80 veterans could use the service.

Supervisors praised the commission members for their efforts. Supervisor Dick Monteith said, "I love your tenacity. Don't lose it."

Stanislaus County has an estimated 27,400 civilian veterans, with about 45 percent living in Modesto. According to the commission's report, the jobless rate for former soldiers ages 18 to 24 is 20 percent, higher than the 16 percent rate for nonveterans of the same age group.

The commission has talked with the Alliance Worknet about job fairs for veterans.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.


AT A GLANCE

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors took the following action Tuesday:

• Approved increased garbage collection fees in unincorporated areas. Effective July 1, Turlock Scavenger's fees will jump 6.6 percent in Denair, Empire, Hickman and La Grange, raising the residential rate from $20.98 to $22.37 a month for a 90-gallon cart. Gilton Solid Waste Management customers will see a 5 percent increase from $19.32 to $20.29 for a 90-gallon cart. Other homes served by Turlock Scavenger and Bertolotti Disposal would pay less than 2 percent more.

• Approved a multiyear funding approach for operating the Regional Water Safety Training Center in Empire.

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