In the spirit of the Mayor’s inspired inaugural address and the beginning of a new year, I would like to take a moment to lay out my goals and resolutions for Melrose Veteran Services in 2012. But first, we must look back just a little ways to see why our goals make sense.
In just five short months, we increased our veteran beneficiaries from 39 clients to 55 clients and increased our total benefit delivery from approximately $20,000 per month to $35,000 a month. The reason for this increase is a focus on what I call a total services delivery initiative. While most may know veteran benefits as a simple monetary award, the scope of our services encompasses much, much more.
Every veteran who needs assistance from our office has a monthly income that falls below the federal poverty line. This means more than 55 veterans in our community have been identified as living below what the federal government considers the most basic standard of living. That is a very sobering fact considering what this population of men and women were willing to give up for their country.
Once identified, these veterans do receive a financial assistance that is offset by their income, meaning if a veteran receives social security at an income level below poverty, we supplement their income up to the poverty line in order to provide stability. This is not simply a cash benefit. It takes into account housing costs, heating costs, medical costs and the cost of food for the veteran and their dependents. In many cases, the clients we support are widows of veterans who served honorably that had little to no income left once their husband or wife passed.
When I say total services delivery, I mean ensuring there is a focus on reimbursing some of the life costs that we sometimes take for granted. In the past five months, we have identified veterans who had not visited the dentist in years or veterans with severe hearing loss that needed hearing aids in order to enjoy time with their family and friends.
Food is another concern. Many of our Melrose veterans visit the local food pantries in order to eat and need the occasional food card from my office or the mayor’s in order eat the types of foods that keep their health intact.
And last, but not least—insurance costs. We are working with our veteran population to ensure they select and receive the type of insurance coverage that increases their quality of life and limits the impact of their medical costs on the city’s operating budget.
Total services means just that—we are not providing paychecks; we are working with veterans to improve their living standards per federal, state and local mandates.
With that aim in mind, here are my goals and resolutions for 2012.
1.) To continue to change the approach of veteran services from a simple monetary award system to a total services delivery initiative that assists veterans with interventions and referrals that create life stability. Part of this goal is outreach. We need to continue to identify veterans in need and once we find them, give them the information that leads to positive change.
2.) Our office aims to end veteran homelessness in Melrose. While this is a lofty goal, we see no other choice. As long as there is a homeless veteran in Melrose, there is one too many. By identifying veterans with indicators that often lead to homelessness, we can intervene before even one of our warriors is left out in the cold.
3.) Our office aims to continue the fight against veteran unemployment. The leading cause of veteran homelessness is unemployment. Health concerns are also included in this fight since veteran-specific health concerns are the main cause of veteran unemployment. Identifying the causes of unemployment, which is all too often health-related issues, allows us to try and intervene before the situation devolves into a homeless case. Work creates stability and continuing to get our veteran population stable and back to work will create a better standard of living for now and the years to come.
While my office is charged with fulfilling these resolutions and goals, we can certainly use the help of the generous Melrose citizenry. Simple referrals go a long way. If you know a veteran, widow or child of a veteran that is in need, point them in our direction or give us a call. Once identified, there is an overwhelming number of resources and an army of amazing volunteers willing to help where they can. Often, our biggest roadblock is finding the problems. I ask that Melrosians help us meet our goals by finding the veterans who need assistance so we can get to work. You can reach our office at 781-979-4186 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is to a healthy and prosperous 2012 for our veterans and all of Melrose!