Orange County’s congressional delegation Wednesday sent a letter to Orange County officials expressing concern about delays in services to local veterans from an Orange County office.
The letter — which was signed by Reps. Harley Rouda, D-Newport Beach, Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, Gil Cisneros Jr., D-Fullerton, Katie Porter, D-Irvine, Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, and Linda Sanchez, D-Norwalk — questioned county officials how they could speed up services at the Orange County Veterans Service Office when staff has been cut from seven to three.
“This office is especially important for Orange County veterans due to the relative lack of regional services directly supporting veterans in our communities,” the letter reads.
There are three outpatient clinics for veterans in Laguna Hills, Anaheim and Santa Ana, but the nearest VA Benefits Offices are in Los Angeles and San Diego and the closest VA Medical Centers are in Long Beach and San Diego, the congressional representatives noted.
The representatives said due to the shortage of staff it can take up to three months to get an appointment with an accredited claims officer at the county’s office.
“Especially at a time when so many are suffering the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe wait times of this length are simply unacceptable,” the representative said.
The representatives said they understood the county is under financial constraints as the economy sags because of the pandemic.
“Please know we continue to fight for additional federal fiscal relief for the county and our local governments,” the representatives said, adding that Levin has introduced a bill to create a VA grant program to support county veterans services offices.
“We also are working to augment the work of the (county’s office) by offering casework services to our constituents that need assistance with VA claims,” the representatives said.
Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, the vice chairman of the board, said the county opened the office as a bonus to augment federal veterans services, but he added there is a need to improve.
“The county of Orange has been working diligently for the last few years to provide services to our veteran community,” Do said. “We have had multiple housing projects funded by the housing finance trust led by county funding.
“We will do everything we can to make sure that our veterans services office is adequately resourced to serve our veteran community. We recognize that Orange County has the highest number of retired veterans in the U.S. This office was created in order to serve that large population. We will make sure the veterans are provided with all the services they need.”