New veteran services officer needed in Bartholomew County

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COLUMBUS, Ind. – The Bartholomew County commissioners are searching for a new leader to help connect veterans to their benefits. This comes after the commissioners voted to fire the person in charge earlier this week.

Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz told CBS4 that the commissioners had initially informed the veteran services officer, Tom Crawford, he would be out of the job at the end of the year. However, the decision was made now as the commissioners felt it was the best decision to provide help to veterans in the county and surrounding area.

"We don’t want the office to miss a beat as we go down the road here," said Commissioner Carl Lienhoop.

The veterans' office, located in the Bartholomew County Government Office Building, is still open for veterans as three part-time workers are there to help.

Kleinhenz said most services won't have any problem being met, but some expertise could be needed in some rare cases. The commissioner said he'd like to see some kind of solution in the next 30 days.

Lienhoop added the office is crucial to making sure veterans receive all their benefits.

"We’ll probably study this issue some, talk with the people who are still up there, and decide what kind of course we are going to take," Lienhoop said.

The news of Crawford being ousted has made its way to the veteran community. Several people at American Legion Post #24 said they had voiced complaints about the service from the officer.

It had become enough of a concern that post commander, Alan Mckown no longer directed veterans to go to the office.

“I’m talking 30, 40, or 50 veterans I’ve tried to help in the five years I’ve been here and had very negative words about the service officer," Mckown said. "I had a lot of veterans come in here, and veterans’ spouses, trying to get help from the VA, and a lot of them were actually crying."

Mckown said he has already recommended someone to a state representative to fill the position. He wants to see someone who will be patient with veterans and guide them to get services they're entitled to receive.

"A lot of veterans say they don’t need it, the VA doesn’t really help, but they really do," Mckown said. "That’s what the service officer is supposed to do. Send you in the right direction, see you to the right people, and have the right contacts to help veterans out."

Mckown said estimates put the veteran population in Bartholomew County at close to 7,000 people.

CBS4 attempted to reach out to Crawford, based off of most recent contact records, but could not reach the former officer.

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