Veterans received $11.3M in 2019

JOHNSTOWN — Monetary Veterans Affairs compensation and pension awards to veterans in Fulton County increased by about $1.2 million from fiscal year 2018 to 2019.

Fulton County Director of Veterans Dan Engel recently provided the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee with a review of his agency’s trends and VA expenditures.

He noted that VA compensation and awards — dollars in the pockets of Fulton County veterans — increased from $10.1 million in 2018 to $11.3 million in 2019.

Engel said local veterans also received approximately $3 million more in additional VA medical benefits from 2018 to 2019. The total was $10.7 million per year.

County expenditures for veteran transportation services were reduced by over $8,000. in fiscal year 2019 due to the Fulton County Veterans Service Agency’s volunteer drivers.

Engel said that agency volunteers who drive the DAV van provided over $25,000 worth of contracted transportation services in fiscal year 2019.

Current trends in fiscal year 2020 show a savings of $7,410 year-to-date for transportation services. Engel said it was lower than anticipated due to COVID-19.

The veterans official also reported that federal VA budget increases have added “more red tape” to filing claims making them more time consuming.

The committee also reviewed three proposed Fulton County Veterans Service Agency 2021 contracts.

A $16,500 annual contract providing services to Hamilton County veterans is proposed. The contract is automatically renewed until either party wishes to renegotiate. The Hamilton County Board of Supervisors reviewed the contract in 2020. The 2021 proposed contract rate is the same as 2020.

Transportation services for Fulton County veterans through the Montgomery County Veterans Service Agency is also wrapped up in a $4,200 contract. Transportation is to and from the Samuel Stratton Veteran’s Medical Center in Albany.

Engel’s office also has a $1,200 contract with Panoramic VetPro Inc. for a software license to access VA records. He renegotiated the contract with VetPro for a savings of $800 in fiscal year 2020.

By Patricia Older