Tri-town veterans office answers questions in Rochester

Jun 3, 2019

ROCHESTER — At the Rochester Town Meeting, Selectmen promised they would have the Veterans Office at their next meeting, after multiple veterans said they had a difficult time getting benefits. On June 3 they made good on that promise. 

Veterans Office Clerk Jo-Ann O’Malley appeared to represent the part-time department, giving a brief presentation before taking a few questions. She explained that the Veterans Office is in Mattapoisett, but serves veterans from Rochester and Marion as well. The office’s main responsibility is administering Chapter 115 benefits, a needs-based program that can include payments for medical expenses, a supplement to Social Security and things like heat and burial benefits. 

O’Malley and the Veterans Agent, Barry Denham ask each inquiring veteran about different financial factors and put them into a state database, which then makes recommendations as to the aid that the veteran will get. Though the towns initially pay for the services, the state then reimburses towns for 75 percent of the cost.

The clerk said that the job (and its budget) are unpredictable. “We could take on a veteran every month, or we could lose a veteran every month. There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” she explained. 

The office also helps veterans with filling out the paperwork for federal benefits, though O’Malley called that “a daunting task.”

Selectman Woody Hartley asked how many dollars were spent last year on services to veterans. 

Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar replied that the office spent around $40,000, but that the office lost a few veterans last year. 

Hartley also wanted confirmation that Rochester residents were using the service. O’Malley confirmed that they were. 

“If you know of anyone in need, encourage them to call the office,” she said, adding that if the Veterans Office can’t help it can at least try to refer veterans to someone who can.