LONGMEADOW – When Paul Seifert first got involved with veterans’ issues, he had no idea it would lead him to a career.
Seifert, a Holyoke native and Springfield resident, was recently hired as the town’s new Veterans’ Services Officer after working for several years with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion.
“The people of Longmeadow have been nothing but nice and welcoming. It’s an honor to serve the veterans and families of this community and I’m very excited to be here to help,” he said. “This is a very rewarding job, especially when you have the opportunity to help veterans in need. They are always very thankful.”
Seifert takes over the position vacated by Anthony Lawrence, who recently graduated from the Springfield Fire Academy. Lawrence took the job in April
, replacing Jason Dieni, who held the position from October 2011 to July 2012 when he left to take a federal position
with Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island.
Seifert, post commander of American Legion Post 325 in Holyoke, American Legion district historian for Hampden County and senior vice commander of VFW Post 801, also in Holyoke, explained that his involvement in veterans’ affairs started through those organizations.
“In leadership roles with the American Legion and the VFW, people would come to me with questions and I would help point them in the right direction and seek people out,” he said. “Through that process, I gained a lot of information and eventually I thought I could be that person who could help them instead of sending them to someone else.”
Seifert said the local veteran population is “very diverse in a good way” and a large part of his duties lie in determining what benefits and services veterans could qualify for.
“Massachusetts [General Law] Chapter 115 benefits are pretty broad. There’s quite a few things I can do for people. It can be as simple as helping someone get a veterans’ license plate to helping someone who is 100 percent disabled receive benefits,” he said. “New soldiers coming home come here to make sure they get the ball rolling on receiving benefits an veterans that are not doing so well financially or medically can seek help through me.”
Improvements in benefit education for recently discharged veterans have made the process easier for the younger population, Seifert noted. However, elder populations often were not afforded the same knowledge when they left the service, making outreach an important element of his job.
“Outreach is definitely needed, especially for those who served 20 years ago and beyond,” he said, adding that among other things, he would make it a priority to visit veterans and their families in local retirement homes to ensure they have the knowledge and benefits they need.
Seifert can be reached at his office at the Adult Center located at 231 Maple Road from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. He can be reached via phone at 565-4150 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
More information and resources can be found on the veterans’ services page on the town’s website, www.longmeadow.org/departments/veterans-services