CLEARFIELD – Local veterans are asking to have a full-time position reinstated in the Clearfield County Veterans Affairs office.
The county previously employed a full-time administrative assistant in the VA’s office to assist Director Betina Nicklas until that position was vacated in August of 2018.
Amid a budget crisis, the commissioners used an employee to provide “swing” coverage for the first part of this year as a cost-saving measure. The chief clerk also assisted, as-needed.
The commissioners only allocated funds for a part-time, Secretary II position in the VA’s office in the current budget; this position has been filled and the new employee started March 25.
Veterans have recently expressed their dissatisfaction in the reduction of staffing, as well as concerns that it’d slow down processing paperwork, especially for veterans’ disability claims.
On April 9, the county’s Salary Board voted, 3-1, to create the position of deputy director of claims in the VA’s office. The pay rate was set at $17 per hour, and is not to exceed 1,000 hours per year.
Sobel has previously said local veterans have a very valid concern, and there has been an additional “hurdle” of having Nicklas on active duty quite a bit.
He said they plan to support her service with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, and the commissioners believed hiring a deputy to fill in, in her absence will help resolve veterans’ concerns.
During the public comment at Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting, John Rowles, current Clearfield Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1785 commander, presented a petition with over 600 signatures.
Rowles requested that the county consider the petition, which asks to reinstate a full-time administrative assistant to assist Nicklas in the VA’s office.
He said there have been a lot of stories about the overcrowding at the jail and the county paying out around $20,000 per month to house inmates in other counties.
“It hasn’t been brought up anywhere about Clearfield adding beds to its institution,” he said. “Every county around us has added, and Centre [County] has tripled theirs.
“We used to send inmates over there; now because of costs, they’re going to Jefferson County. We’re paying to have their new buildings built.”
Rowles asked why this wasn’t on the commissioners’ agenda and being discussed, adding these problems weren’t going away and it was the same story in other counties.
“There’s a drug problem, and it’s got to be addressed … you better take a good look at it with the Prison Board,” he said. “And back to the VA, we need a full-time secretary in there. These men, these ladies deserve it.”
Sobel then accepted the petition from Rowles and thanked him for expressing his thoughts and concerns on behalf of local veterans.