Monday, September 1, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;71.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nskc.png;2014-09-01 03:32:52
Saturday, July 12, 2014

Funding shift may limit veterans services in NH

Services for New Hampshire veterans provided through Easter Seals New Hampshire might be sharply curtailed after a federal National Guard ruling that says the agency can no longer participate because it is a nonprofit rather than a small business.

The ruling, which came to public attention Friday after a rebuke from Gov. Maggie Hassan, would shift control of up to $1 million a year, or roughly half the money that supports the program, away from Easter Seals. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

Services for New Hampshire veterans provided through Easter Seals New Hampshire might be sharply curtailed after a federal National Guard ruling that says the agency can no longer participate because it is a nonprofit rather than a small business.

The ruling, which came to public attention Friday after a rebuke from Gov. Maggie Hassan, would shift control of up to $1 million a year, or roughly half the money that supports the program, away from Easter Seals.

It’s unclear what this would do to the veterans assistance program, which has helped more than 2,600 service members and family members over seven years with everything from counseling to necessities such as food and shelter.

Whatever happens, Easter Seals New Hampshire will continue to oversee Veterans Count, a Nashua-based charitable effort spearheaded by businessmen Sy Mafuz and Tom Tessier that raises money to expand the National Guard-funded efforts.

“What does this mean? It means Tom and I have to work harder to raise more money to make sure that we are eventually independent and make sure that we can take care of our veterans and their families,” Mahfuz said.

In a letter written Friday to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Hassan decried what she called “a baffling bureaucratic decision” to exclude Easter Seals from money for the program, and asked that the decision be overturned.

The situation is complicated because of the number of agencies involved.

In previous years, the National Guard Bureau money for veteran services – roughly $700,000-
$1 million a year – has been funneled through the state Department of Health and Human Services and the New Hampshire National Guard into what is known as the Deployment Cycle Support Care Coordination Program, or DCS-CCP.

This money is reserved to help National Guard veterans, especially those whose service came after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Veterans Count program was established in 2007 as part of Easter Seals New Hampshire to provide similar services to all other veterans from any military service and from previous conflicts.

Mahfuz and Tessier came onboard in 2012 to boost fundraising.

Those two programs have worked together to provide services to all veterans, said Larry Gammon, president of Easter Seals New Hampshire.

“This is money that’s been coming to the state of New Hampshire almost seven years. … There is a real continuity of care,” Gammon said. “If somebody else tried to take that caseload and train people, it would be very, very difficult.

“We have a real close partnership with the Guard and Health and Human Services, so we not only help with counseling, we can buy food, pay rent. … There are people specifically paid under that grant who are available to the soldiers and their families 24/7. It’s not an 800 number, they’ve got the cellphone number.”

The National Guard Bureau money had been coming through a cooperative arrangement, Hassan spokesman William Hinkle said.

“That allowed the state more flexibility in how we handle the money,” he said.

This year, Hinkle said, the federal government changed to a bidding process with a request for proposals, or RFPs, to decide who will be able to use the funds in New Hampshire. The RFP includes a requirement that the bidder is a small business.

“In a baffling bureaucratic decision, the National Guard Bureau is refusing to allow Easter Seals to even bid on the contract to continue the program, saying the contract will be bid as a small business set aside, excluding nonprofits,” Hassan said in her letter to Hagel. “The very least we can do for these individuals is ensure that the cooperative agreement is extended and all partners, both state and nonprofit, continue to have a role in the delivery of vital DCS-CCP services.”

Hinkle and Gammon said they didn’t know why the switch to a bidding process occurred.

“Nobody’s mad at us,” Gammon said. “I have to believe somebody in their effort to help small business didn’t know they’d be hurting the people they’d be hurting.”

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).