MEDINA — Providing monetary assistance is no longer the primary focus of the Medina County Veterans Services Office.
Ed Zackery, executive director of the office, said Tuesday that his main emphasis is now providing assistance with the Department of Veterans Affairs programs.
He said a record number of veterans are applying for benefits. Veterans filed 353 rating claims and 597 new VA claims in 2018 — it continues to grow. Zackery said ratings claims are compensation and pension claims.
He said his office assisted 2,477 veterans and family members with VA paperwork in 2018, an increase of more than 100 clients.
“The needs of our veterans are the upmost important thing we do when reaching any decision,” he said.
The numbers were part of the end-of-the-year report Zackery presented to county commissioners.
His office provides two basic services — temporary emergency financial aid and assistance to eligible veterans and family members who have demonstrated a need; and assisting veterans, family members and survivors with applying for VA benefits.
He said his office helps families deal with the “red tape.”
Financial assistance is used on rent and mortgage payments, utilities, food, transportation, grave markers and free public transit, among others.
Zackery said his office will soon start doing video appeals, “so we don’t have to send veterans to downtown (Cleveland).”
According to his report, his office provided relief for 447 Medina County veterans and their families, more than 100 fewer than 2017. That represented $255,777.62 in vouchers paid out in 2018, a significant decrease from the year before.
“With the recession and the recovery of the economy, financial assistance is really down,” he said. “That means our veterans are doing much better and we aren’t paying those dollars out to them.”
Zackery said the average dollar amount spent on every veteran that walks into the office is $570.43 in 2018.
Transportation is a big part of what his office does. Veterans often will ride Medina County Public Transit to the veterans’ office and catch the van to VA Medical Centers in Cleveland, Parma and Akron. His office provided rides to 1,180 veterans in 2018.
“They get free transportation and don’t have to worry about parking or gas,” he said.
Counting transportation, 3,088 clients came through the door in 2018.
He said there are 17 active veterans’ organizations in the county, two fewer than in years past. The Chatham Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Spencer American Legion Post closed.
Zackery said a new organization, Desert Veterans from Persian Gulf War, is now meeting at the American Legion Post 202 in Medina.
“These organizations are truly on the front lines when it comes to helping veterans and their dependents,” he said.
In other news:
- Jocelyn Stefancin, chief public defender, said she’s shuffled some of her attorneys in her office.
She hired staff attorney Thomas Condosta on Jan. 2 and has assigned him to Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier’s court.
Condosta formerly worked in the Cuyahoga County Public Defenders’ Office from 1988 to 2012. He went into private practice for a time and realized he missed working in the public defenders’ office. He applied for a job in Medina County and was hired.
“He has a vast array of experience in all areas,” Stefancin said.
She said she relocated Chad Mulkey to the juvenile court. Larry Spoljaric and Jeremy Samuels will remain in Medina Municipal Court, Kimberly Stout-Sherrer in Wadsworth Municipal Court and Stefancin will continue to work in Common Pleas Judge Joyce V. Kimbler’s court.
“It’s a nice transition for everyone for a change of scenery,” Stefancin said.
- Ron Zickefoose, Medina County bee inspector, inspected 124 apiaries and 616 hives in 2018. An apiary, also known as a bee yard, is a location where beehives of honey bees are kept.
“The hives (in Medina County) are in good condition,” Soil and Water Conservation District manager Jim Dieter said.
Zickefoose reported that there were some mite issues with the hives, but didn’t find any major problems.
Dieter said Zickefoose met with the Amish community and it appears receptive to having its hives monitored.