Mr. Michael B. Crouse, Sr., was appointed as Executive Director of the Waco Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO) effective November 21, 2021. As Executive Director of the Waco VARO, he is responsible for administering non-medical benefits provided to Veterans, Servicemembers, and dependents – including Compensation, Pension, and Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) benefits. The Waco VARO serves a potential clientele of nearly one million Veterans, living in a service area that extends from El Paso to Texarkana and from Austin to Amarillo, which equates to an estimated 158,000 square miles. Mr. Crouse oversees Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefits delivery programs with annual outlays of over $6.3 billion. The Waco VARO employs a total of approximately 1,000 employees.
Prior to this appointment, Mr. Crouse became the first ever sitting Director of the Fort Harrison VARO on February 3, 2019. In this position, he provided executive oversight and leadership, and he was responsible for administering a wide array of benefits in the areas of Compensation and VR&E to approximately 93,000 Veterans and their families throughout Montana, with annual monetary benefits exceeding $365 million.
From October 2015 to 2019, Mr. Crouse served as the Assistant Director over the Salt Lake City, Utah, and Fort Harrison, Montana, VAROs. In that position, he provided executive oversight to approximately 900 employees charged with administering VA benefits and services to over 237,000 Veterans and their families, with annual C&P disbursements of $717 million combined.
Mr. Crouse also served as the Special Missions Program Officer (SMPO) at the Seattle VARO. In that capacity, he was responsible for leading the day-to-day operations of a Disability Rating Activity Site (DRAS) that had the responsibility of processing pre-separation disability claims for VA and the Department of Defense. He provided leadership oversight to a staff of over 270 claims processors involved with the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES). Mr. Crouse also served as the Veterans Service Center Manager at the Seattle VARO prior to serving as the SMPO, providing leadership oversight to a staff of over 500 claims processors. This office administered approximately $1.2 billion in annual federal benefits to over 600,000 Veterans and their dependents in Washington state. Prior to his stint in Seattle, Mr. Crouse served in multiple leadership assignments in the Lincoln, Nebraska, VARO.
Mr. Crouse is a retired U.S. Army Paratrooper and served in multiple leadership positions during his 20-plus years of active duty.
Darlene Jones was appointed as an Assistant Director at the Waco VARO on November 8, 2009.
Ms. Jones began her VA career in 1999 as a Veterans Service Representative at the St. Petersburg VA Regional Office. During her tenure at St. Petersburg, she advanced to the position of Rating Specialist; and subsequently to the position of Supervisory Veterans Service Representative, where she was responsible for various teams within the Veterans Service Center.
In 2007, Ms. Jones accepted a position with the C&P Service, as Chief of Program and Development Staff. In that role, she was a first line supervisor for one of the three procedures teams. She was responsible for supporting a number of programs, which included Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD), Quick Start Consolidation, and Pension Management Centers Consolidation. Also, Ms. Jones served as the VA Chair on the BDD Working Group for the Benefits Executive Council. She was instrumental in coordinating the development of various initiatives, including the Pre-Discharge website, BDD pamphlet, and Quick Start pamphlet.
Ms. Jones was born in Camden, Arkansas. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from St. Leo University, as well as a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Troy State University.
Ms. Jones is an alumna of the Leadership VA (LVA) Class of 2009, the VBA 2010 Assistant Director Development Program (ADDP), and the Federal Executive Institute (FEI) class of 2011.
Ms. Jones and her husband, David, who is a retired Navy Veteran of 23 years, have two sons, Christopher and Brandon.
Dirk J. Mancuso started his Department of Veterans Affairs career at the Winston-Salem Regional Office as a Veterans Service Representative. He then transferred to the Appeals Management Center (AMC) where he held the positions of Supervisory VSR (Coach) and Assistant Veterans Service Center Manager (AVSCM). Following his time at the AMC, Mr. Mancuso served as an AVSCM at the Houston Regional Office where he provided leadership and oversight to over 500 employees within the Veterans Service Center (VSC).
Subsequently, Mr. Mancuso served as the Veterans Service Center Manager (VSCM) at the Waco Regional Office where he was responsible for all program operations within the Veterans Service Center, which is comprised of 918 full time employees.
Currently, Mr. Mancuso is the Assistant Director of the Waco Regional Office, where he provides senior level oversight and leadership to roughly 1,067 employees.
Mr. Mancuso is passionate about leadership and has successfully participated in several national leadership development programs within VBA, which include Leadership Enhancement and Development (LEAD), Leadership Development Program (LDP), Executive Leadership Coaching Program (ELCP), Aspiring Senior Leadership Practicum (ASLP), and the Federal Executive Institute (FEI) for a Democratic Society.
Mr. Mancuso served 12 years in the United States Air Force where he completed two tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
He holds an Associates of Science degree in Construction Management from the Community College of the Air Force, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from Saint Leo University and a Master of Science degree in Human Resource and Leadership Development from Louisiana State University (LSU).
Mr. Mancuso is married to an amazing wife and has two wonderful kids. In his spare time, he enjoys camping and outdoor activities with his family and two dogs.
Justin K. Tepe was selected as the Veterans Service Center Manager (VSCM) for the Waco Regional Office in February of 2023. As the VSCM for the Waco Regional Office, Mr. Tepe is responsible for all program operations within the Veterans Service Center, which is comprised of more than 1,100 full time employees.
Mr. Tepe started his career with the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Veterans Service Representative (VSR) at the Waco Regional Office in July of 2008. Mr. Tepe served as a VSR on both pre-determination and post-determination teams in support of processing very seriously injured Global War on Terror (GWOT) Veterans’ claims. Mr. Tepe then advanced to the position of Rating Veterans Service Representative (RVSR) on a priority processing team at the Waco Regional Office. In 2012, Mr. Tepe joined the Lincoln Fiduciary Hub as a Field Examiner, where he served Veterans, widows, and beneficiaries across North Texas for the next two years.
In 2014, Mr. Tepe returned to the Waco Regional Office as an Assistant Coach. Mr. Tepe subsequently advanced to the position of Coach. In 2018, Mr. Tepe was selected as an Assistant Veterans Service Center Manager (AVSCM). As an AVSCM, he oversaw the daily activities of the Veteran Service Center’s (VSC) front office and multiple RVSR teams. As an AVSCM, Mr. Tepe participated in the implementation and processing of special claims initiatives for Blue Water Navy and Nehmer Veterans.
Mr. Tepe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Public Relations from Baylor University.
Mr. Tepe has two amazing sons with his wonderful wife. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling with his family, and cheering on his Baylor Bears.
Chloe M. Freeman currently serves as the Veteran Readiness and Employment Officer at the Waco Regional Office. She has been in this position since February 2023. As the Veteran Readiness and Employment Officer, Ms. Freeman is responsible for overseeing the delivery of Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) services to Veterans that live in the State of Texas with service-connected disabilities and Servicemembers who are transitioning from the military to prepare for, find, and maintain suitable employment, or obtain independence in their daily living activities.
Ms. Freeman served as the Assistant Veteran readiness and Employment Officer at the Waco Regional Office from November 2021 to February 2023. From January 2015 to November 2021, Ms. Freeman served as the Veteran Readiness and Employment Officer at the Jackson Regional Office. She supervised a team of nine employees located at the VBA Jackson Regional Office, VHA Medical Center in Biloxi and VetSuccess on Campus located on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg, MS. As the Veteran Readiness and Employment Officer, Ms. Freeman was responsible for overseeing the delivery of VR&E services to Veterans that live in the State of Mississippi with service-connected disabilities and Servicemembers who are transitioning from the military to prepare for, find, and maintain suitable employment, or obtain independence in their daily living activities.
Previously, Ms. Freeman worked for South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department (SCVRD) for 5 ½ years as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor before accepting a position with the US Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Division in New York in 2008. She worked with the US Department of Veterans Affairs in New York as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for 11 months and transferred to the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Columbia, SC where she worked for 5 ½ years as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor.
Ms. Freeman received a Master of Arts Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from South Carolina State University.