"The idea that there are veterans amongst us who are not benefiting from the services they deserve and need simply because they are unable to navigate a complex and confusing system is unacceptable."
So said Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst on Monday after announcing the town will host a Veterans Service Officer to facilitate access to counseling and assistance services for eligible veterans, their spouses, dependants and survivors.
"Just having one of their service officers visit our local community centers routinely will allow those in our township who might not have the time or ability to travel that long of a distance (like to Riverhead or Hauppaugue) an opportunity to access those services," said Martin Knab, Commander, Chelberg and Battle Post 388 in Sag Harbor.
The arrangement will be made through an inter-municipal agreement with Suffolk County, which will assign a Veterans Service Officer to a Southampton Town facility once a week from 10 AM to 4 PM. It will cost the town $8000 a year.
"I am very pleased that we will be able to provide this arrangement with the assistance of the county in order to ensure veterans and their families can conveniently access the services they have earned," the supervisor added.
Assisting with determining qualifications for VA benefits, preparing and submitting applications for benefits, tracking applications on behalf of residents/family members, and answering questions related to VA issues are some of the duties the Veterans Service Officers will be responsible for.
"This will be a very helpful service appreciated by many veterans, and I thank the Town for its efforts," said Rich Steiber, Commander, Hand-Aldrich Post 924 in Hampton Bays.
Veteran services are likely to begin within the month. Initially, Throne-Holst introduced the resolution on the agreement last Thursday during the town board's work session. Now it's the Suffolk County Legislature's turn to pass a similar resolution to get the ball rolling.
"I applaud the Supervisor and the Town Board for pursuing the benefit of having one of the County's Veterans Service Officers assigned to visit our town facilities weekly to help our veteran communities many diverse needs," said Knab. "I know that this will help the mission of many local VFWs and American Legion Post in assisting our fellow Veterans."