Veterans Deserve Better

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The late senator John McCain will be remembered for his integrity, most notably demonstrated by his penchant for straight talk. There was a great irony locally when Bruce Porter wrote a column in Sunday’s daily paper, simultaneously praising senator McCain’s integrity while contorting the truth and assailing 3rd District County Supervisor Joan Hartmann for something that never happened. If one is to use John McCain’s legacy as a comparison, facts matter.

Porter falsely asserts that Supervisor Hartmann kicked County Veterans Department caseworkers out of their office space at the Betteravia Government Center in Santa Maria. Facts reveal that when another county supervisor (years prior to Hartmann’s election) renovated his office at Betteravia, he encroached on the available space used by veterans’ caseworkers, leaving them with a less than 200-square-foot single office to use.

Of the county’s three Veterans Department offices (located in Lompoc, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria), the Santa Maria office has the biggest constituent case load, yet they had the smallest office space. Many veterans have unique needs, like physical disabilities, and some suffer the effects of PTSD. Therefore, the caseworkers desire easily accessible and private office space to meet their needs. Knowing this, upon her election to office, Hartmann strongly encouraged County General Services to find a more suitable space for our Veterans Department in Santa Maria. As a result, they relocated from their small single office at Betteravia, which often has parking challenges, to a nearly 1,200-square-foot county-owned facility off Foster Road.

The new facility has private offices for discreet case management, ample parking, and above the required amount of ADA parking spaces, all to the benefit of our local veterans. Unlike Porter, who seems to be in campaign mode a bit early, I applaud Supervisor Hartmann for her leadership in better serving the needs of our veterans.

Chris Brooks is a retired U.S. Army sergeant.

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