November 10, 2022
Franklin County’s Expanded Efforts Translate To Big Boost In Funding For Local Veterans
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – The Franklin County Commissioners have long valued the contributions and sacrifices veterans and military families have made in the service of the United States. As a way of saying thanks, the commissioners have placed an emphasis on enhancing the Franklin County Veterans Affairs office to offer the best possible services and resources to the more than 13,000 veterans who call Franklin County home.
Those efforts have paid off, as area veterans received over $20.3 million in federal disability compensation and benefits in fiscal year 2022. That’s an increase of more than $16 million in just eight years and can be attributed to the determined push by Franklin County Veterans Affairs staff to reach a larger number of veterans.
With the commissioners’ support and under the leadership of director Justin Slep, the Franklin County Veterans Affairs department has grown its presence in the community through town hall forums, presentations, events like annual veterans expos and golf tournaments, and several new therapeutic programs. Slep also serves on a number of committees and boards both locally and at the state level, which helps increase visibility.
All of those efforts have helped Franklin County Veterans Affairs educate local veterans on the services and opportunities available to them. Each year, the number of individuals who contact the department continues to grow, jumping from an estimated 500 veterans in 2014 to more than 4,500 in 2021. As more veterans become better informed through increased outreach efforts, more apply for services and benefits, like disability compensation and benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
VA disability compensation offers a monthly tax-free payment to veterans who became ill or were injured while serving in the military as well as veterans whose service made an existing condition worse. Individuals can also qualify for VA disability benefits for physical and mental health conditions that developed before, during or after service. In 2014, approximately $4 million in federal funding was paid to Franklin County veterans. Because of the outreach efforts of Franklin County Veterans Affairs, that amount has spiked by more than $16 million in just eight years.
“VA benefits and compensation can change veterans’ lives,” said Slep, who noted that one local veteran recently received a retroactive award of more than $88,000. “Not only do monthly federal payments help veterans financially, but it also makes them eligible for any and all care related to their service-connected disabilities within the VA health care system.”
Benefits aren’t just limited to those who served in the military. Surviving spouses and the unmarried dependent children of wartime veterans may be qualified to receive monthly payments through the VA Survivors Pension. Similarly, VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is available, based upon qualifications, to the survivor of a veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness or the surviving spouse, children or parents of a service member who died in the line of duty.
“Spouses and dependent children of veterans and service members may qualify for certain benefits like health care, life insurance or assistance to help pay for schooling,” added Slep. “Survivors of veterans and service members may also qualify for added benefits like help with burial costs and survivor compensation. Those caring for a veteran may be eligible for support to better care for the veteran or themselves.”
Above all, Franklin County Veterans Affairs works to provide the best possible service to veterans and military families.
“Veterans and claimants are always our top priority. We will even go to them, if necessary. We eliminate all of the barriers so all veterans have access to this office and our resources,” said Slep. “Our staff understands that we will always do more than what is required. The words ‘no’ or ‘we can’t’ are never spoken in our office.”
“When Justin joined our team, our ask of him was simple: do more for our veterans. The result has been nothing short of spectacular,” said Franklin County Commissioner Chairman Dave Keller. “The team he has put together and the level of service they have achieved have exceeded all expectations and have been a true blessing to the veterans of Franklin County.”
For more information on Franklin County Veterans Affairs and its services, call 717-263-4326 or visit www.franklincountypa.gov.
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