Full time eyed for Veterans Service director

Part-time Fulton County Veterans Service Agency Director Daniel Engel requests full-time status before the Board of Supervisors' Human Services Committee Tuesday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. Seated to his right is Office for Agng/Youth Director Andrea Fettinger. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — Citing statistics, part-time Fulton County Veterans Service Agency Director Daniel Engel on Tuesday requested his position be made full-time.

After a brief discussion, the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee approved a proposed resolution to go before the full board Sept. 10.

That proposal requests veterans “be given greater access to a qualified service officer” by reinstating the director’s position to full-time.

The county for several years had a full-time veterans director with the late Frank Ruggiero, but went to part-time when Engel was hired.

“More hours really need to be put in,” Engel told the committee.

If the proposal is approved, Engel’s hours would go from 20 per week to full-time. Proposed is a $49,056 full-time, 35-hour per week salary for next year.

“It’s pretty much doubling what the current salary is,” said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead.

As he did recently during the committee’s 2019 budget review, the veterans director came armed with statistics.

Engel estimates he will have made 3,566 public contacts for this year by the end of 2018. That figure has steadily grown from 897 in 2015, to 2,565 in 2016, to 3,782 in 2017. Walk-ins per year are estimated to be 714 by the end of 2018, up from 563 in 2016 and 688 in 2017. He estimates 320 claims filed for 2018, again up from 264 in 2017.

He noted that some veterans’ claims may take up to one year before they are fully developed and ready to submit to U.S. Veterans Affairs. He also noted that Fulton County’s veteran population has a normal average of over 4,300 people.

“A full-time director could better promote and establish synergy between veteran stakeholders,” Engel told the committee.

Engel said that veterans of Fulton County, their widows, and dependents would be “better served” by reinstating a full-time director. He said it will allow more hours to properly process benefit and entitlement claims.

“VA expenditures should be recognized as a driving force of economic development in Fulton County and supported by ensuring veterans are provided access to qualified help during normal business hours, Monday to Friday,” Engel said. “Allowing the director to serve additional hours will improve agency outreach, public relations, training, planning and oversight of daily operations.”

On another topic, Engel noted the annual free Fulton County Veterans Picnic is set for noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Pine Tree Rifle Club. He said about 240 veterans are already signed up and they can still contact Dottie MacVean at: (518) 455-5393; or (518) 762-1427.

Michael Anich can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.