850 veterans have contacted office in first 6 months 

FREEHOLD, NJ – In the six months since the county Veterans Services Office opened, the number of clients is steadily rising. A total of 850 veterans have contacted the Freehold office for help.

“Six months ago we opened our doors to veterans and they are coming for help in increasing numbers,” Freeholder Amy A. Mallet said. “Not only are we helping them learn what benefits they are entitled to, we help them fill out the paperwork needed to apply for these benefits.”

The Board of Chosen Freeholders opened a County Veteran Services Office on Nov. 10, 2010 at the renamed Office on Aging, Disabilities and Veterans Services. The name was changed to reflect the expanded services offered to Monmouth County veterans.

Sue Moleon is one of two full-time veteran service officers; the other is Debbie Bottomley. Shiela Starosolski greets veterans, makes appointments and helps with outreach. They are assisted by Phil Finch, a veteran service officer who is a mentor and a volunteer. Veterans will call and schedule appointments, Moleon said, but many walk in unannounced. “We try to help all of them,” she said.

Many veterans are unaware they may be entitled to benefits through the federal government, Moleon said. “Whether it’s a hearing loss, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Type 2 diabetes due to exposure to Agent Orange, the Veterans Administration provides compensation for them.”

The Veterans Service Office has filed more than 100 claims for veterans so far. Many claims are filed for service-connected injuries and also pension claims for low-income veterans who served during a period of war. Additionally, many veterans are unaware they are entitled to health care benefits and the Veterans Services Office makes that connection for them.

“We’re seeing a lot of Vietnam veterans, some World War II veterans and Korean War veterans,” Moleon said. “We’re also starting to see a lot more younger veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.”

The office does a lot of outreach at public events. On July 9, for example, county veterans service officers will be at the “Old Glory Cruisers – Don’t Forget the Vets” car show at Michael J. Tighe Park on Georgia Road in Freehold.

“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful journey to be able to work with veterans,” Moleon said. “It’s a labor of love.”

Monmouth County ranks third statewide among the highest population of veterans in New Jersey. The Veterans Services Office was created to help veterans cut through the red tape and obtain the benefits to which they are entitled.

“Monmouth’s county veterans service officers serve the veterans, their spouses and their families with dignity and compassion,” Mallet said. “In many instances they are their principal advocate in ensuring they receive the benefits they deserve.  

“This office was launched at no cost to the taxpayers using existing staff and resources,” Mallet added. “Each dollar that we secure for the veterans and their families is income that they can spend on food, medicine and other goods and services here in Monmouth County.”

The office help veterans with the following:

  • ·Determine eligibility for all VA programs;
  • ·Compensation and pensions;
  • ·Claims preparation, submission and follow-up;
  • ·Initiate and develop appeals when appropriate;
  • ·Education and Vocational Rehabilitation/Employment;
  • ·GI Life Insurance and waiver of premiums;
  • ·Medical information for in-patient, outpatient and nursing home care;
  • ·Home loan guaranty assistance
  • ·Death and burial benefits;
  • ·Dependency Indemnity Compensation Assistance, and
  • ·Complete referral services, including:
  1. oindividual counseling
  2. ogroup counseling
  3. ofamily counseling
  4. omarital counseling;
  5. oalcohol and drug assessment
  6. oemployment counseling
  7. oAgent Orange information and referral
  8. opost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) referral
  9. otraumatic brain injury (TBI) counseling
  10. oreadjustment counseling for combat veterans and their families
  11. obereavement counseling for families who lose an active duty service member;