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Veterans affairs chief presented with award

December 12, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

For 13 years, Robert F. Harris Jr. has been serving the 13,000 veterans in Franklin County, a job for which he was honored last week with an award from the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Harris, 56, the director of the county's Office of Veterans Affairs, was presented a plaque by Bruce Foster, the department's director of Veterans Service Officers, that cited his "superior performance ... for securing substantial compensation and pension benefits for county veterans" for 2004-05.

In 2004-05, Harris' office served approximately 2,230 veterans and their survivors seeking local state and federal benefits, including disability and pension claims, enrollment in educational and health-care programs, emergency assistance, home loan guarantees, burial and death allowances, and other services.

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The office filed 477 claims that resulted in $1,045,304 in disability compensation and pensions to veterans or their survivors, according to Harris. Harris said last week that his office is processing applications from 1,097 county veterans and survivors.

"Contrary to popular belief, we don't do employment for veterans," said Harris. That is handled by the CareerLink office in Chambersburg, he said.

Harris retired from the U.S. Army in 1992 after 22 years, and within weeks was hired as the county's veterans affairs director, he said.

Foster said Franklin County ranks 27th in population of veterans among Pennsylvania's 67 counties, but is the fourth-most productive in terms of the money it brings in for its former members of the armed forces.

"By giving these wartime veterans a pension, we give them back their dignity ... They don't have to ask for a handout," Harris said.

Harris said his office brings in about $13 in benefits for every $1 invested by the county.

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