The State of New Jersey’s website lists veterans services offices for each county. Nineteen of New Jersey’s 21 counties have a veterans services office and a staff dedicated to assisting veterans.

For Sussex County, the website only says “interment officer” and a post office box. Unlike other counties, we don't have a veterans services office.

Sussex County needs to do more for our veterans. I propose that Sussex County create a new “veterans services coordinator” position in county government. This would be a trained professional, ideally a veteran with a background in counseling or social services, who would offer one stop shopping for Sussex County’s veterans. Services would include benefits counseling, employment and education opportunities, and elder, financial and social support, among other things. The veterans services coordinator would be responsible for distributing a regular newsletter, helping veterans with lost military separation papers or filing forms for military medals and records, meeting with veterans groups, and developing partnerships with corporations and non-profit agencies to increase services for veterans.

In short, this position would bring Sussex County in line with every other county in New Jersey. Bergen County has had a veterans services office for 40 years. Why is there none in Sussex County?

We don't need to raise taxes for this position, which would cost $100,000 or less, or nine one-hundredths of one percent of Sussex County’s budget. Instead, we can cut the budget of county counsel (the county’s lawyer), which has increased from $300,000 to $860,000 over the past three years, a nearly three hundred percent increase.

My opponent, Herbert Yardley, is against increasing veterans services. He says veterans already get everything they need, and they should settle for unpaid student interns and a website update.

I say improving veterans services in this county is a moral imperative. Veterans served us, so let’s serve them. If every other county can make resources available for a dedicated veterans services office, Sussex County can, too. If elected, I pledge to make veterans services a priority.

Dan Perez

Candidate for Sussex County Freeholder

(Perez is the Democrat running for Sussex County freeholder. Yardley is the Republican running for the seat.)