WESTFIELD-A wide range of services and programs on the state and federal levels are available for veterans and their families, and the city’s veterans’ services department is available weekdays to help city residents navigate the assistance process.
“The number of veterans from the 2020 census is 1,986,” said Julie Barnes, director of veterans’ services, noting that represents 5% of the city’s population of 41,680.
This month, Barnes is discussing the role of her department on local Channel 15 as part of the Westfield Council on Aging Presents series. The “Serving Westfield’s Veterans” program will air at 2:45 p.m. on Nov. 10, 17 and 24. For persons who do not have access to Channel 15, the program can be seen at www.cityofwestfield.org and under “Community,” click on “Community Access TV, CH 15 Live Stream.”
“Many veterans and families don’t know how much is available to them,” said Barnes. “Even if you are not a veteran, tune in so you will have the knowledge to direct veterans to services that could improve their life.”
The Veterans’ Service Department is staffed by Barnes, as well as James Jordan, veteran service officer, both who are full-time employees, and Gene Theroux, veterans grave officer, who works part time.
The office, located within the Westfield Senior Center at 45 Noble St., is open weekdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
“The Westfield Senior Center is closed but James and I are here full-time,” said Barnes. “We have a door bell outside the main entrance. Anyone can ring the bell and we will assist them. No one can come into the building unless absolutely necessary to file paperwork for claims.”
Barnes noted that city residents may also call (413) 572-6247 with questions during office hours or leave a message after hours.
“I’ll return phone calls when I get back to the office,” she said.
As part of the Channel 15 program, Barnes will discuss some of the basic questions that veterans and family members first ask, including the most common inquiry – “What benefits am I allowed?”
“That’s a loaded one,” said Barnes, noting there are state and federal benefits. “We can talk through benefits with each veteran on an individual basis.”
Barnes also addresses questions during the program including veterans who are allowed free health care, how to connect with veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic, and monetary benefits for low-income veterans and spouses.
Barnes also elaborates during the Channel 15 program on the Vietnam Era Veterans Project and the Purple Heart Project.
“The Vietnam Era Veterans Project and Purple Heart Project are collecting information on Westfield residents that served during the Vietnam era and also those who have received a Purple Heart,” said Barnes. “They are trying to identify and touch base with those folks.”