Our district offices have been engaged in Operation Outreach for the last two months, trying to increase awareness of veteran benefits on multiple platforms for the more than 7,500 veterans living in Melrose, Wakefield and Saugus.
Our reasoning is simple - District VSO Andrew Biggio and I believe most veterans and their family members are unaware of the hundreds of earned benefits available to increase the quality of life for our nation’s heroes.
Andrew swept through Wakefield and Saugus last month, holding benefit seminars to discuss applying for Massachusetts Chapter 115 financial and medical assistance in addition to all the helpful referrals possible through VA Services. This face-to-face interaction allows residents to hear straight from their VSO what is available.
Additionally, we spent a large amount of time reinvesting in our online benefit delivery platforms. All “Veteran Services” Web sites in the district have been updated to include links, information, local procedures and veteran rights. The purpose of these upgrades is to provide more contact information and more transparency to the veteran benefit process.
We also engage the community daily through Twitter and Facebook. By following us on Twitter, you can get daily updates on office hours and staffing levels in addition to retweets from great veteran service organizations offering information on benefits and events at the local, state and federal level. Our updated Facebook page, “Melrose Wakefield Saugus Veteran Services District” offers a consolidated information portal to include the benefit of the day, district events, pictures, videos and news articles important for our veterans.
We have tried hard to improve our service delivery in 2013, but we still have much to do. Coming soon are initiatives like Virtual VSO, a how-to-video series and a community television show devoted completely to veteran issues. Please continue to send us ideas on how to make our operations better. There is nothing more important to our offices that providing the level of service local veterans deserve.
BUT we need your help. The following is an action plan that you can follow to help us help our local veteran population.
1.) Make sure everyone veteran is aware of the VA’s suicide prevention hotline. The number is 1-800-273-8255. We have lost far too many brothers and sisters and we need to commit to erasing this epidemic.
2.) Identify places where we can present veteran benefit information – then let us know about them. We are willing to come to all events and organizations to spread awareness.
3.) Follow us on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook. The more engagement we have from the community, the more likely important information gets to the veterans who need it. Our handles are @melroseVSO, @wakefieldVSO and @saugusVSO. Our Facebook page is “Melrose Wakefield Saugus Veteran Services District.” Our goal is 100 followers per community for Twitter and 200 "likes" one Facebook by Memorial Day.
4.) Attend our events. We hold events throughout the year honoring our veterans. The more participation we have, the more likely our veterans feel supported and willing to ask for the help they need.
5.) Get involved! Each community has an amazing Veterans Advisory Board that serves as an important conduit between the community and its government in addition to assisting in making sure our benefits, events and associated groups honor our veterans daily.
6.) Encourage veterans to speak with us. Not every veteran is willing to ask for help. We are confidential and committed. Give us a name and contact and we will find a way to help.