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Cayuga County Ways and Means Committee

The Cayuga County Legislature's Ways and Means Committee Tuesday approved the formation of a Veterans Services Advisory Board.

AUBURN — A Cayuga County Legislature Committee approved the formation of a volunteer board to advise the county's Veterans' Service Agency and help ensure local veterans' needs are met.

The Legislature's Ways and Means Committee approved the formation of a Veterans Services Advisory Board to act as an advocacy and liaison group for the Legislature on local veteran's issues, according to the resolution.

VSA Director Jessica Strassle said she proposed the board primarily so its members could bring issues that are important to them and their fellow local veterans to Strassle's attention in order to "really make sure we are encompassing the need of our veteran community," she said.

"Those individuals can say to me 'Hey, Jessica, our veterans need A, B, or C,' and if I don't know about it I can go and advocate for it" Strassle said.

For larger issues, members could also accompany Strassle to Legislature meetings in order to essentially lobby as a unified group.

According to the resolution, the board's membership would be made up of nine to 12 veterans with staggered, three-year terms appointed by the Legislature.

Each branch of the military, as well as the northern, central and southern regions of Cayuga County would be represented on the board. Additionally, the board would include up to three at-large veteran representatives from affiliated government agencies or nonprofit veteran services organizations.

The board would also have a chairperson and a legislative liaison, and the Director of Veterans Services would serve as an ex-officio member.

"I just think it's a good way for that department to be attuned to the needs of the county's veterans," Legislator Joseph DeForest, D-Venice, who chairs the Government Operations Committee that previously approved the resolution, said.

Strassle, an Air Force veteran and an Air National Guard member, recently returned from maternity leave, and has since been particularly focusing on reaching out to the community, both to educate veterans about existing resources and to learn about possible gaps at the agency.

In his state of the county address last month, County Administrator J. Justin Woods described Strassle as having been "bounding across the county" connecting with veterans.

In addition to coordinating with local town and village clerks to meet with veterans at the clerk's offices, Strassle said she had been making many home visits for homebound veterans.

"It's very important that I show my respect to those that have served before me, so if they can't get to me I'm going to them," Strassle said.

Legislator Charles Ripley, R-Summerhill, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said he'd gotten lots of positive feedback from veteran constituents about Strassle's performance.

"She's been doing a great job out there," Ripley said.

Some of the ideas Strassle said she's planning on pursuing based on her outreach efforts include developing a homeless shelter for women veterans, providing more case management to ensure veterans know about all the programs available to them, and possibly hosting a resource fair in July.

The resolution must now be approved by the full Legislature, which meets at 6 p.m. April 23 at the Cayuga County Office Building. 

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin

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