Army veteran and community leader Bruce Porter issued the following statement regarding his plan to help the veterans of Santa Barbara County.

“It’s time to upgrade the services provided in Santa Barbara County to care for our veterans.

One of the most significant duties of government is to care for veterans who honorably served our country. Responsibilities are shared across the federal, state, and county governments,” Porter said.

Here in Santa Barbara County, there are about 24,000 veterans and three Veterans Services Offices—in Santa Barbara, Lompoc, and Santa Maria—dedicated to providing services for those veterans.

A significant service in the county are Veterans Courts. The courts give honorably discharged veterans an opportunity to have nonviolent criminal charges reduced or dismissed after completing a year of treatment. The graduates are paired with mentors, also veterans, and work with the Probation Department and Behavioral Wellness staff.

“I call on the county to take the next step for our veterans, above and beyond this solid base that’s already been established. There are three measures that we should take,” he said.

First, Porter outlined there should be upgrades for the staff handling the current caseload. Two of the county offices have only a single staff officer, according to Porter.

“When that officer is out of the office to accompany a veteran at Veterans Court, for example, the office is closed and no services are available. We should staff each office with two officers, which will give the offices greatly expanded opportunities for proactive outreach,” he said.
Second,  there needs to be an upgrade of the facilities which house Veterans Services Officers.

“Some offices are tiny, others have virtually no privacy in which to provide counseling,” Porter added.
Third, there is a need to upgrade the priority and visibility of Veterans Services Offices in the county structure.

 “VSOs are currently buried deep inside the county’s Office of the Treasurer – Tax Collector – Public Administrator. Given the importance of this function of government, Veterans Services Offices should work directly under the County Public Administrator,” Porter said.

These proposals will cost more money, according to Porter, of an increase from an annual budget of about $400,000 to $500,000, still less than 1 percent of the county budget.

“There will be a growth of county employees from 4 to 6, out of over 4,000 county employees, so about 0.15 percent of total employees. That seems like a small price to pay to improve the way we serve those who have given so much for our country,” Porter said.

Bruce Porter is running to represent the residents of the 3rd District. which is the largest supervisorial district in Santa Barbara County and includes the communities of the Santa Ynez Valley, western Goleta, UCSB and Isla Vista, Vandenberg AFB, Vandenberg Village, Mesa Oaks, Mission Hills, Los Alamos, and Guadalupe.

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