We are currently working with other Veteran Service Organizations in Franklin County to establish a Veterans Assistance Commission (VAC) in Franklin County. For more than 100 years, Illinois state law has provided for assistance for Veterans in need. Over the years, many updates have been made to this law. In its current form, the law states that if a majority of the Veteran Service Organizations in a county come together and request for the establishment of a VAC, then the county must grant it. In the event a county refuses to grant the formation of the VAC and provide the necessary funding, then the Veterans are to go to the Circuit Court and the county will be made to provide for this VAC.
In Franklin County we have a total of ten Veteran Service Organizations. Of these organizations, seven have bonded together to form the VAC of Franklin County. These organizations are: Franklin County Disabled American Veterans Chapter 51, Christopher American Legion Post 528, Zeigler American Legion Post 177, Sesser American Legion Post 560, Sesser VFW Post 4753, Benton American Legion Post 280, and Benton VFW Post 2671. Our VAC is made up of 1 Delegate and 1 Alternate from each of these organizations. Any Veteran is welcome to attend any of our meetings. It is our hopes that the three remaining Veteran Service Organizations in Franklin County will choose to join our VAC. An open invitation remains available for the American Legion Posts in Orient, Valier, and Thompsonville to send a Delegate and Alternate to our VAC.
Funding for the VAC comes from property taxes that the county collects. Under state law, .03% of the property taxes collected must be used for this purpose, if requested. The county can provide more than .03% if it is taken to the voters for a tax increase. The VAC of Franklin County is asking only what is allowed by law, without requiring an increase in taxes. This is money that Franklin County is already collecting, and we are only seeking that which we (VAC) are entitled to help Veterans.
The VAC of Franklin County has very strict guidelines on how this money, once allocated to us, will be used. The two largest expenses will be to hire a Superintendent and Secretary, and to provide financial assistance to Veterans in need. The Superintendent will act as a Veteran Service Officer and will be properly trained to file VA claims. They will be available to assist Veterans and their family members with getting the VA benefits which they are entitled. Along with helping our county's Veterans, this will also bring money into our county. Every time a Franklin County Veteran is awarded a VA disability claim, that is additional revenue which is spent here in Franklin County. Many of the counties in Illinois that have a VAC routinely report hundreds of thousands of dollars per year being brought into their respective county through VA Disability claims. One concern that has been brought up is that a large portion of our budget will be used to pay for the Superintendent and Secretary, and yes, that is true. However, it is the Superintendent and Secretary who do the work which puts more money into Veterans pockets, and thus brings more money into our county.
Financial Assistance for Veterans in need will make up the other significant part of our budget. Under Illinois state law, Veteran Service Organizations, such as the Franklin County DAV, American Legions, and VFWs, can go to the county to be reimbursed for cash payments they make to Veterans in need. None of our organizations have ever used this law, or attempted to get reimbursed by the county. This is something that each of our organizations have willingly done. We all believe in Veterans helping Veterans. Under Illinois state law, a VAC can only give financial aid to a resident of the county that the VAC is in. The VAC of Franklin County has drafted common sense rules on how we will disperse funds to Veterans in need. By establishing the VAC of Franklin County, and getting the money which we are legally entitled to from the county, we can better serve Veterans. Since funding will be centralized in one location, it will be easier for Franklin County Veterans who have a true need, to come and seek assistance. Also, since we are centralized at the VAC, it will cut down on the times that we unfortunately have someone trying to take advantage of our organizations. The information on who is receiving assistance is given to the member organizations of the VAC. This will simultaneously cut down on fraudulent activity and allow us to better serve those who really need assistance. Many of the Veterans that our organization have helped financially are traveling through our area and are not residents of Franklin County. The VAC cannot legally give these Veterans financial assistance, but the individual organizations who are members of the VAC still can. So if a Post in any of our communities has a Veteran traveling through the area who needs gas money to get to their destination, that individual Post can still donate the money to do so if they so choose to.
One other plan for our VAC to be of assistance to our county's Veterans, is that we will ensure that the Superintendent will visit each member organization at least once every two months to see Veterans who need to file or follow up on VA Disability claims. Currently, it is difficult to be seen by a Veteran Service Officer, and to see most of them you have to drive to either Marion or Mt Vernon. We have an aging Veteran population, with many who have difficulty driving long distances or being away from home for long periods of time. By having our Superintendent go to the various communities in our county this will make access much easier for our older and disabled Veterans. On the days that the Superintendent is not traveling to provide services, they, and the Secretary, will be maintaining regular daily office hours, in a central location which is easily accessed by Veterans.
We hope that you choose to support the establishment of the VAC of Franklin County. It will be an incredible asset to our county's Veterans. Our next meeting will be at the Sesser VFW at 6pm on Monday, June 26th. We thank you for your support, and we hope to have the VAC of Franklin County up and running for our Veterans as soon as possible.