By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Region – On July 1, the Central Mass. Veterans” Services District Office officially opened for business. Serving the communities of Westborough, Northborough, Grafton, and Shrewsbury, the office is located on the second floor of the Forbes Municipal Building, 45 Main St., in Westborough.
The district office came about in part as a result of the Governor's Executive Order 483 of 2007, reinforcing Massachusetts law requiring every municipality to maintain an office of veterans” affairs under the auspices of the Secretary of State. Before July, each town ran its own separate veterans” office.
“We are particularly concerned about helping indigent vets, but we serve the whole veterans” community,” George A. Perry III, district agent, said.
“One of our biggest issues is helping provide healthcare to vets through the Department of Veterans” Services in Boston. The towns are then reimbursed up to 75 percent by the state,” Perry said.
Each town has its own veterans” budget. Veterans just out of the military, and their spouses, receive health benefits and other aid until they find employment.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 the unemployment rate for 18- to 24-year-old male Gulf War veterans who served after 2001 was 20 percent, higher than the rate for non-veterans of the same age group (16.4 percent). The rate for male veterans age 25 to 34 was also higher than the rate for their non-veteran counterparts, 10.4 and 8.1 percent, respectively.
Perry is a retired veteran, having served first in the U.S. Army, then the National Guard, and finally the Air Guard, where he was a member of the 101st Air Control Squadron based at Worcester Airport. They supported Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) command and control aircraft.
Across the small office, Assistant Agent Ken Ferrera answers the many incoming calls.
“I's a Vietnam-era Army infantry vet,” he said. He noted that the office serves to get veterans the attention and help they need.
“We'se here to help,” Perry said.
Perry is also involved with the Westborough Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW Post 9013, serving as quartermaster. He is currently leading a drive to raise money to rebuild the post, which is located across the street from the Westborough Fire Station.
The Veterans” Services District Office can be reached at 508-366-3085 or by email at [email protected] Massachusetts Veterans” Laws and Benefits are available online at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/cis/cisvet/vetidx.htm and questions can be emailed to the state at [email protected].