By Leslie N. Dees
The Veterans Service Affairs Office in Attala County was once again discussed during the Attala County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday.
At an October meeting, the board was addressed by resident Wendy Walters, who was concerned about Attala County Veteran Service Officer Melvin Gibson’s participation in special and community events while being “on the clock.”
United Veterans of Attala County Chairman Emmette Armstrong discussed the role of the VSA office.
Armstrong said the office is open from Monday-Friday with permissible closures being state and federal holidays as well as public education and promotion of patriotism and veterans. VSA office staff is also sent to training on a regular basis.
“They do close to go out and do veterans programs such as flag programs at the schools and Oprah Winfrey Boys & Girls Club,” Armstrong said. “Those are authorized by this book (VSA policy book), which was approved by the board of supervisors in 1993.”
“Closing for community activities is part of their job,” he said.
After some discussion between Armstrong and the board of supervisors, the office would continue to post the hours on the door as well as a return time during periods of closure and cell phone numbers were to be posted as well.
“We’ve never had a complaint from a veteran,” Armstrong said.
VSA officer also aids in the filling out of paperwork for veterans benefits and services.
Addressing the board later on in the meeting, veteran Tony Ballard said in the past with the hiring of the VSA officer that the job was posted, and applications were taken.
“There are over 1,400 veterans in Attala County,” Ballard said. “Most of them don’t use the veterans service office.”
Ballard said veterans can bypass weeks of paperwork by going straight to Veterans Affairs in Jackson.
He also said that the VSA office should not be used for private organizations or private business such as the American Legion, American Legion Riders or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“We’ve got two people out here that the county is paying for (VSA officer and secretary),” Ballard said, noting that veterans could seek help with paperwork at the local VA clinic and at the Mississippi State Veterans Home in Kosciusko and the funds for the VSA office could be used elsewhere in the county.
Walters said that another county with 21,000 veterans has a veterans service officer that works 40 hours a week compared to Attala’s 64 a week with 1,400 veterans.
“We are the only county out of six that has a state veterans home,” she said.
“I don’t know why the veterans organizations don’t get together and vote,” Supervisor Troy Hodges said. “And say, ‘Look, we don’t want anyone out there. We are going to use the one at the VA.’ That would stop every bit of this.”
“We’ve always went with the veterans recommendation and this time it’s been nothing but trouble. I don’t understand this,” Hodges said. I’ve not had one complaint . . . expect yours (Walters).”
“I’ll be honest with you – I’m getting tired of it,” Hodges said.
Board attorney Scott Pickle said the previous complaints were that the VSA officer wasn’t working enough and now it is that they are working too much.
Supervisor Charles Fancher said he was at a loss as what the board should do.
“I wish we could get this settled,” Fancher said. “Maybe you (Walters) and Tony could get the groups together.”
Ballard said the supervisors should look at the report he submitted to them and make a decision.
Get with the powers that be of the veterans organizations and have them come to us with a decision,” Fancher said.
“We’ve always tried to do what the veterans wanted,” Fancher said.