North Hempstead has allocated a caseworker to help provide services to the town's 1,200 veterans.
With this move, the town will allow younger veterans to see a caseworker. Previously, caseworkers had been available to the town's senior citizen population, including older veterans.
"We're focused on attracting younger veterans to make sure they know we're here for them, to help them adjust, and connect them to all the services they're entitled to," Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said.
The idea to extend caseworker services to younger veterans originated with the town's Veterans Advisory Committee, and the caseworker will be made available up to 10 hours a week. The caseworker can make house calls, or residents can come to town offices in Port Washington or New Hyde Park. Town officials say the worker can help veterans apply for benefits and entitlement programs for which they and their spouses can qualify. Services range from loans to home health aides, officials said.
For many veterans, adjusting to life at home and applying for services and entitlement programs "can be an overwhelming experience," said Kimberly Corcoran-Galante, who heads the town departments that cover community services and aging residents.
"Veterans don't just like to go out and say 'I need help.' If they know it's there and it's advertised, they'd go over and seek the help they need," said Matt Falcone, a committee member who is a veteran of the Marine Corps and commander of the American Legion Post 304 in Manhasset.
Gail Selis, a caseworker with JASA, which has a contract with North Hempstead, said she is eager to work with the town's population of younger veterans.
JASA, a nonprofit founded in 1968 as the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, serves 43,000 older adults in the metropolitan area. It has a contract with the town providing caseworkers for the senior program, Project Independence. There will be no additional costs to provide a caseworker for younger veterans.
"A lot of young veterans are not aware of the services they qualify for," Selis said.
Selis said she is developing a checklist of entitlement and services available to veterans and will be reaching out to them locally. She said she wants to highlight the scholarships, job opportunities and loans available to veterans from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Thirteen-year Army veteran Timothy Turane, 31, of Westbury, said that returning to civilian life is a challenge for veterans. Turane, who spent 18 months in Iraq and a year in Afghanistan, and is training to be a paralegal, said, "I feel like I'm coming right out of high school all over again at 31."
The town formed the advisory committee in 2014. Bosworth has said she wants more services made available to the town's veterans. She said she plans to urge the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to add a Northport VA Medical Center clinic within the town.