On Tuesday, August 27, Harris County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to establish the Veterans services Department as a standalone department that reports directly to the court, bringing the department into compliance with state law.
Back in April, Commissioner Garcia requested a VSO committee be created to look into the status of the Veterans Services office and define a plan of action to revitalize the office and services for veterans. This request came after a veteran and constituent raised concerns the office was not in compliance with State Law.
The Committee’s study found that Harris County spends less on its Veterans Services Department (VSD) than comparable large counties in Texas and nationwide. VSD has the highest veteran-to-staff ratio of any county VSD in Texas. With 4 full-time positions to serve over 163,000 veterans, our veteran-to-staff ratio is above 32,000 veterans per staffer. Other large counties in Texas have a veteran-to-staff ratio below 20,000.
The Committee is recommending increasing staff, improving community outreach, and building stronger bridges to the veterans’ community and other agencies that serve veterans and their families. The plan approved by Commissioners Court will gradually add new staff positions, to double VSD staff from five to nine and increase their budget to almost $1 Million from their current roughly $440,000 budget.
“Our veterans deserve this investment. We need to show them and their families how grateful we are for their service and sacrifice. This is an opportunity for Harris County to improve services, access, and opportunities for all veterans who have done so much for our country,” said Commissioner Adrian Garcia
The investment in improving the VSD will make it the largest operation in Texas and Harris County will be competitive with large counties in other states. Most importantly, services would be improved, relationships with the veterans’ community will be strengthened, and the focus on the mission of helping veterans and their families will be sharpened.
The report was possible thanks to the collaboration between Commissioners representatives, Judge’s office, county departments, community groups, and stakeholders.