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Veterans services agency for Hingham and Scituate nears approval

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 15, 2011 05:18 PM

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Hingham officials will vote Tuesday night to enact a regionalized Veteran Service Agency shared by Hingham and Scituate.

Scituate signed an agreement last week, which calls for a full-time veterans service director, a 20-hour-a-week veterans officer, and full time clerical support. Hingham is expected to officially sign on at their Board of Selectmen’s meeting Tuesday.

Currently, Hingham has a full-time veterans agent, who will become the service officer. Hingham will have to hire someone for clerical support at 20 hours a week. Likewise, Scituate will also have to hire a part-time agent. Currently, the town has a clerical person on staff for 15 hours a week.

Despite the hiring split-up between the two towns, their duties won’t solely be in their relegated districts.

“Their schedule won’t be regimented there. They won’t be needed at just one location, but will go to meet veterans in their home town,” said Scituate Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi.

Especially when one of the officers is on vacation, the on-duty officer will split his time between the two municipalities.

Once Hingham signs the intermunicipal agreement, both towns will have to submit the plan to the head of Veterans Service for the state for approval, something Vinchesi sees as a formality rather than a significant hurdle.

“We don’t anticipate any problems in terms of forming the district,” Vinchesi said. “We will have mechanisms to make sure it’s working for both parties, but we did discuss it at length to work out the parameters. There are many models that have existed in the state already. Although the concept is new to the South Shore, it's been tested and proven beneficial in many other parts of the state.”

Vinchesi said areas such as Duxbury and Hanson have shared a veterans agent for a while. Additionally, Franklin County has shared a veterans representative for 20 years. Still, regionalization in generally is not as prevalent in the South Shore, Vinchesi said.

Nonetheless, “this is a great opportunity to implement something that’s a win-win situation,” she said.

Regionalization will not only increase efficiency in the two towns, but will also provide better service to the communities’ veterans, officials have said.

It was the primary reason the two towns joined forces in the first place.

“The paramount reason for doing this is to serve the veterans better in both communities,” Hingham Town Administrator Ted Alexiades said during the early stages of the plan in October. “We’re not doing this to save money. A biproduct will be to save money, though it won't be anything substantial…but we’ll be a better conduit for services that need to be applied on the local level.”

As many veterans’ benefits are given out at the local level, having an efficient, well-working means to disburse the benefits is increasingly important.

“In Hingham we made a strong commitment to veterans and serving them, and making sure they get the benefits they are entitled to, and we’ll work with Scituate to ensure the same there.“

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