MEDINA — Citing the area’s low unemployment rate as a reason, the director of the Medina County Veterans Service Office said financial assistance to veterans is down.
Director Ed Zackery told county commissioners Tuesday the Veterans Service Office has provided assistance to 229 eligible clients in the county in the first half of 2018. At this time last year, 271 people received financial comparison, he said.
“That keeps dropping,” he said. “Our unemployment rate for veterans in the county is 1.6 percent. The unemployment rate is real good. Veterans are working.”
Zackery said he expects the unemployment rate for veterans to stabilize at that level or drop.
Overall, the unemployment rate in Medina County in July was 4.5 percent, down from 5.5 percent a year ago in July, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Zackery credited the strong economy for the low unemployment rate, as well as several training programs.
He said there are about 12,800 veterans in Medina County, and he estimated two-thirds are employable. Others are retired or unable to work for various reasons.
Along with helping veterans find jobs, filing Veterans Affairs claims is the “bread and butter” of what his office does, he told commissioners.
“It puts federal dollars in veterans’ pockets,” Zackery said. “(We help) with health care, medical, housing and all sorts of things.”
He said his office at 210 Northland Drive has averaged about 30 new claims per month in the first six months of 2018. Of the 178 claims, 116 were medical.
Although data wasn’t available for this year, Zackery said the VA paid $26.9 million in medical coverage for county veterans last year.
In compensation and pensions, Zackery said the VA paid out $33 million to county veterans in 2017. That’s about $600,000 less than it was the year before due to a dip in claims filed, he said.
“That is $33 million directly in the veterans’ pockets here in Medina County,” he said. “That’s more than a $40 million increase from 10 years ago. That’s a huge increase when you look across the board.”
Overall, the VA spent $65.4 million on veterans in the county in 2017 — the highest total in more than 10 years, he said. It spent about $63.5 million in 2016.
A boon for his office, he said, is the VA has transitioned to a paperless claims process.
He said his office used to mail in claim forms to the VA.
“Now I can fax in a claim or send it in electronically and it goes into their system and it’s there the next day,” Zackery said. “The large part of the claims are being (processed) in 120 or 140 days, which is their goal.”
He said it used to take one to two years to process a basic claim.
“Technology has sped things up,” Zackery said. “Everyone is happier.”