|By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Publications file photo
LONGMEADOW There's a stigma among many young military veterans that accepting their entitled government benefits is a sign of weakness, according to Anthony Lawrence, the town's new Veterans' Services officer, and it's one he's dedicated to changing.
Since starting his position on April 1, the Iraqi War veteran said he has assisted mostly World War II veterans with medical benefits, noting that community outreach is necessary to bring in the approximately 1,200 former servicemen and women in Longmeadow.
"People don't understand fully what it is that I do or what the benefit actually is," Lawrence said, adding that prior to his two-year employment as a caseworker with the Springfield Department of Veterans' Services he was also unaware of his entitled benefits.
"The Springfield department took me under their wing. They made me [aware of the benefits and how to help others]," he said, noting that he's dedicated to public service as he's pursuing a bachelor's degree in social work.
Lawrence emphasized that veterans have access not only to federal but state benefits as well.
"There's financial and medical benefits through the VA [Veterans' Affairs]; there's Welcome Home Bonuses, annuities, possible pensions, education benefits and job training. [Massachusetts] Chapter 115 benefits is a type of public assistance, which has been around since 1861 and was put in place for vets coming home and transitioning into civilian life. It's income driven so it goes by what the federal poverty guidelines are," he explained.
According to the Office of Veterans' Services, "If your income is less than $1,805 per month (single) or $2,249 (couple), and you have less than $3,200 in the bank, you could be eligible for assistance with medical insurance and expenses.
"If your income is less than $1,345 per month (single) or $1,860 (couple) and you have less than $3,200 in the bank, you could be eligible for cash assistance as well as assistance with medical insurance and expenses."
Lawrence noted that in addition to the aforementioned state benefits, he could also refer veterans to various services on the federal level.
Lawrence is available to meet with servicemen and women Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Adult Center, 231 Maple Road. He may be contacted directly at 565-1403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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