By Timothy Cox
Mercer County Commissioners are considering pay raises for the five-member Mercer County Veterans Services Commission.
Commissioners are expected to rule this week on a request from the commission to increase each member's monthly pay from $300 to $350. The pay hike would not take effect until the beginning of each member's next five-year term.
Pay rates for Veterans Services Commission members were last increased about five years ago, said Tom Risch, the county's veterans services director.
Ohio Revised Code 5901.04 gives county commissioners the authority to pay veterans services commissioner members "reasonable expenses" and "fair compensation for their services."
Although the issue has appeared on several recent meeting agendas for the county commissioners, they have held little discussion on the matter. Instead, they sought a study of what veterans services commission members in surrounding counties earn. That study shows Mercer County's Veterans Services Commission members already are the top paid in the area. Shelby and Darke county veterans commission members earn $275 monthly, Van Wert pay its representatives $250 per month and Auglaize County pays about $200 monthly with a yearly cost-of-living increase.
Commissioners meeting last Thursday noted the comparison to surrounding counties but did not discuss the issue further. Commissioner Jerry Laffin was absent, and commissioners Jim Zehringer and Bob Nuding opted to wait until this week when Laffin returns to rule on the issue.
The five commission members represent the five military services posts, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam (AMVETS), Vietnam Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans. Members are recommended by their respective posts and appointed to their terms by the county Common Pleas Court.
Commission members are responsible for staffing the county veterans services office with a director and for overseeing its programs. The veterans services office helps military veterans file for insurance and pension benefits and also transports them to medical appointments and other meetings. The office made 1,017 trips last year, mostly to regional Veterans Administration hospitals. The office also administers a financial assistance program for veterans.