The Orange County Commissioners have narrowed down the list of applicants for the Veteran’s Service Officer position to four out of 21 applicants. Each Commissioner and the County Judge were given a copy of all of the applications and were asked to grade each one (on a one to five scale, five being the highest score given).

At the Commissioners’ Court meeting on Monday, County Judge Carl Thibodeaux announced the final four applicants (listed in order of the grade given on their applications): Felix Smith, Billy Pruett, Charles Perry and Donald Sullivan. The final four applicants will go through a very thorough screening process and the Commissioners and County Judge will conduct 30 minute interviews for each applicant on Tuesday, July 19 at 10 a.m. These interviews will be considered closed meetings unless the applicants want them to be open to the public.
If the county doesn’t chose a VSO officer from the top four applicants, they will conduct interviews with the next four, and so on and so forth.

The Veteran’s Service Office has been undergoing several changes since the previous VSO Officer, Jerry Childress, and the Benefits Coordinator were let go in early June. The county has become aware of the goings-on and is still trying to rectify the situation.

“[The VSO is] struggling because they are shorthanded there,” Thibodeaux said. “A large percentage of the Veterans have been very understanding about it. There’s a few that’s gotten frustrated, but it’s not because of their attitude or character, but it’s because they’ve been trying to get things done for quite a while. They are concerned about putting their requests on hold for too long.”

Thibodeaux explained that the VSO office and the County have been able to work through the problems to do what they can for the Veterans. The individuals who have needed to get their claims expedited have been able to do so. Some of the Veterans are going to the Beaumont office and the Houston office while the County is still struggling to fill the vacant seats.
“We still have a lot of back log to do,” Thibodeaux said. “There are a substantial number of Veterans who are not from Orange County.”

Veterans from other counties and other states having been coming to Orange to handle their claims.

“It doesn’t matter where they came from, we need to take care of their claims,” Thibodeaux said. “But it has created an issue with our Orange County Veterans not being able to get service in a timely fashion.”

He explained that one VSO employee’s calendar was full of only non-Orange County residents. The County wants to help all they can but they can only do so much. The Court is recommending that non-Orange County residents seek assistance from a Veterans Service Office in county they currently reside in.

“We’re not totally disregarding them,” he said. “We’re still helping them. They fought for all of us. We want to be accommodating to everyone but there’s a limit to what we can and can’t do.”

About Nicole Gibbs

Editor of The Record Newspapers