Town loses stellar VSO, Ron Griffin


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Ron Griffin to Retire as Veterans Service Officer

Ron Griffin emailed town officials yesterday to confirm his long planned, and much deferred, retirement as the town’s Veterans Service Officer, leaving huge shoes to be filled.

First and foremost, I want to thank Ron for his exemplary and expansive service to the Town of Medfield, its veterans, and really, by his extension of the scope of the VSO work, to all of our residents.  It has been one of my great pleasures to see how he used that VSO position to make so many things happen to honor the veterans, but also to involve so many facets of the town in the process.  Thanks to Ron the Blake Middle School students now meet annually with veterans, Medfield Foundation volunteer of the year honorees receive flags flown over the Capital, the town this year is honoring Vietnam War vets, and the town now celebrates all veterans on Veterans Day with a breakfast in their honor served by the Medfield High School students from their Warriors for Warriors club.  Also, through his Legion connections, housing for veterans is now being explored at the Legion.  Ron is clearly a leader of both vision and action.

The defeat of Ron’s motion to amend the Veterans Service Officer budget at the annual town meeting (ATM) was the low point of that meeting.  That was when I first learned that the Warrant Committee was not supporting that funding request, and the issue had not been discussed by selectmen.  In hindsight, I wish I had added a plea for support on its behalf, since the expanded position could have coordinated with Medfield Youth Outreach and the Council on Aging to serve those most in need in Medfield (see Ron’s proposal below).

Below are Ron’s email, and then Ron’s previously presented plan for the expanded VSO position.  Maybe a future town meeting, as a tribute to Ron Griffin and his extraordinary service to all Medfield residents, will enact his recommendations:

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April 27, 2017

Dear Selectman Pete Petersen, Mike Marcucci, Gus Murby and Town Manager Mike Sullivan

In October of 2015 I submitted my intention to retire at the end of that fiscal year.  I gave advance notice so as to give the town time to prepare a solution to the states full time service officer requirement and to find a suitable replacement.  When neither was accomplished by the end of that fiscal year, I agreed to continue in my position until December 2016 with the understanding that the town would be able to find a replacement and achieve state compliance by that time frame.  Now the 2018 fiscal year is approaching and to the best of my knowledge there has been no advancement by the town to fill the position nor actions planned to secure compliance to the State’s General Law.

This places me in the intolerable position to abandon my post, which I will do at the end of this fiscal year.

As the position of Veteran Service Officer carry’s with it appointments to the Memorial Day Committee and Committee to Study Memorials, I am resigning from those committees as of July 1, 2017.

As the town moves forward to find solutions to serve it’s veteran population I fear it will encounter difficulties.  If the town tries to fill the position and not also meet compliance with State law, the appointment will be rejected by the State.  In addition the state might freeze certain Veteran reimbursements through the Cherry Sheet until the town is in compliance.  The State is under some pressures to take actions on the few communities that are not in compliance with State Law in providing Veteran Services.   I fear Medfield will become the example used to prod other communities into compliance.  I also fear that the veteran community statewide along with the media, will strongly vocalize and condemn the town for its non-actions to bring the town into compliance with the state law.  I also fear the Town of Medfield will be depicted as hostile community to veterans.  This will greatly sadden me, as I know the Town of Medfield is one of the most supportive veteran communities in the state.

It is also possible that none of my fears will materialize.  However it is these undesirable real fears along with a strong concern to insure that the valuable services provided by this office continue without interruption that has motivated me to continue my duties throughout this past fiscal year.

Please understand, I regret the actions I am taking now.  I trust you can agree that I have done all that I could to insure that an orderly transition of my position was achieved.

Until then, I remain at your service.

Ron Griffin
Medfield Veteran Service Officer

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March 22, 2017 Subject - VSO Job description expansion - Office of Veteran and Community Services I am very aware that the following is not within the context of my responsibilities and has not been solicited. However, it is being offered with the intent of advancing the town toward compliance with State Law requiring the Town of Medfield provide full time access to Veteran Service Officer services. I fully agree that the current Medfield veteran population is in rapid decline and not large enough to warrant full time services, however the law uses town population to determine the requirement. Last year I submitted a budget for a full time position and I have done so this year as well. So I would like to offer rational to expand the duties of the VSO, while preserving its primary function. I met with Warrant Committee member Tom Marie to discuss my 2018 budget proposal and essentially had this same conversation. The VSO Position administrative overview The veteran Service Officer must be the primary function of the VSO position, however others duties may be assigned. The VSO position must be occupied by a veteran. The VSO position requires subject knowledge and certification on general areas specific to veterans and their families. Providing knowledge and information the VSO identifies benefits and guides clients through various matrices toward acquiring them. The pathway mostly consists of benefit explanation, developing the correct documentation and delivering it to the correct resource. The VSO does not determine, deny or ratify benefits and is non judgmental in offering assistance to any individual. However, the VSO does administer Massachusetts Chapter 115 benefits. Expanding VSO duties Where much of a VSO’s expertise is in subject explanation, documentation development and resource identification it is probable that these skills can be used on other non veteran related programs needed by the town’s citizens. Generally NEEDS based programs do not require unique expertise and many community programs may only require the dissemination of information. Needs based programs already exist that are managed by various town departments, sometimes under-utilizing the expertise of the person managing them. All to often, citizens are denied assistance because they simply do not know it exists. Often our citizens most in need of services are the least able to acquire them on their own. Because discussions about these services are provided in a confidential private setting, there is little visibility that these assisting services ever took place. Generally the community population who are not exposed to these services are seldom aware of the their need nor of their importance. Each of you probably have had an experience with one of our citizens who had an issue and had no idea where to turn for help. My experience is that generally what is missing is an understanding of the problem. Yes, occasionally our bureaucratic systems do error and when they do, it is usually very difficult for an individual to correct. In today's society, little can be accomplished without computer knowledge and internet access. Paper forms are now restricted and agency's often defer to web based solutions. More often computers are the decision makers and generating correspondence while the human analysis works to understand the computers choice rather than applying a solution. Often agency's do authorize electronic access to their systems that help identify individual issues. There is a BOLD line that separates assisting in a situation and owning that situation. I do not propose that this position administer any benefit (other than Chapter 115). That bold line is too easily crossed due to a natural compassion that develops with the client. While it is appropriate to provide guidance toward appealing undesirable results, it is not appropriate to participate in the appeal as that would require specific professional expertise. Development of VSO knowledge and skills can easily take more than a year. Knowledge development of non Veteran needs assistance will be substantially less. Identification of non veteran based services can be developed independently, but the following programs are offered as potential candidates. Non- Veteran Needs based services already provided by Medfield (The following is a collaboration list identified by Dawn Alcott, Chelsea Goldstein-Walsh, Cheryl Lavallee and Ron Griffin) Assistance with filling out applications: SNAP (formerly the food stamp program) Mass Health Other health insurance through health care connector SSI/SSDI when appropriate Department of Mental Health Department of Developmental Services SHINE (Medicare) Fuel Assistance Assistance with locating food resources: SNAP Medfield Food Cupboard A Place to Turn Natick (individual or family can go every 2 months for 2 weeks of food with a new social service referral each time…we have many families involved in this United Way program and we do their referrals every two months) Abundant Table Home Delivered Meals (if over age 60) (this is common when a senior is in the home of a family we serve) Assistance with financial help SMOC Housing Home Committee Angel Run Fund (we screen many referrals for ARF…usually 2-5 per week) Fuel Assistance (as SMOC representative for Medfield Community both MYO and COA do applications for residents) Assistance with obtaining basic necessities (clothing, furniture, etc.) New Life Home Refurnishing: (Furniture Resource)Must be referred by social service agency. That agency coordinates client visit on their behalf. This is a once in a life time referral…so it is a thorough and complete as possible process. Dress for Success Boston: (Clothing) Social service agency referral needed. A woman returning to the work force or changing careers can get one interview suit/outfit and an additional outfit following hire. Other agencies: ARC of Southern Norfolk County (for respite funds to hire caregivers and other programs) I hope you will consider the information provided as an opportunity to better utilize the VSO position to better serve all of our citizens. Ron Griffin Medfield VSO20170322-rg-veteran and community services position march 2017_Page_2

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2 responses to “Town loses stellar VSO, Ron Griffin

  1. I am a retired compensation consultant who prior to my retirement had specialized in job design and compensation in the public sector. I think it is important for Town residents to know that multiple municipalities are struggling with this State mandate requiring a full-time VSO. The bottom line is that smaller communities just don’t have the size of veteran population to warrant a full-time position. Many communities have looked to share a VSO with other communities under the State’s radar, or combine the position with other job functions (social work duties).

    Ron has done a great job in expanding outreach to Medfield’s veterans and creating awareness of veterans issues. The Warrant Cttee’s recommendation not to expand the budget has nothing to do with Ron’s contribution.

    I recommend that the Personnel Board and Selectmen assess the needs of Medfield’s veteran population and then review/revise the VSO’s job description and determine hours needed to fulfill that role.

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    • Selectman Osler "Pete" Peterson

      Rachel,
      Thanks for your always the expert input. Ron has said that the Town of Medfield does not need a full time Veterans Service Officer for the amount of work the veterans alone need. There are also fewer veterans in town with each passing year. Ron’s plan, I believe, was to use the full time Veterans Service Officer position (and a full time Veterans Service Officer is required under statue law for any town with a population over 12,000, and we are only just over) to get other needed town services performed, services now being performed mainly, I believe, by Medfield Youth Outreach and the Council on Aging. Ron had opined to me that the perfect replacement for him as the Veterans Service Officer would be a woman veteran who was a social worker.

      I am still not aware of the Warrant Committee reasons for not supporting the request to make the Veterans Service Officer full time, but in a year when the Warrant Committee was doing everything possible to avoid an override, I expect it primarily came down to that issue, in which case even good ideas cannot get done.

      And I did not know you retired.

      Like

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