County: New partnership could connect hundreds of local veterans to previously unknown VA benefits

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — If you or a loved are a veteran, a new partnership launched Thursday can connect you to money and benefits you may have had no idea you had access to.

The partnership is between Jordan Health Centers and Monroe County, and organizers say it will connect local vets and their families to Veterans Affairs benefits. Through the partnership, a guide with the Monroe County Veteran Services Agency will walk eligible people through the benefits process to gather the materials they need to support a claim, file a claim, and track the claim through the VA system.

According to the county, there are currently hundreds of veterans or spouses of veterans throughout the area who unknowingly are eligible for several benefits due to their service. It says thousands of dollars go unclaimed every year.

Navy Veteran Raymond Lott was struggling before he met with a representative from the Monroe County Veterans Service Agency.

"Because of him, I was able to get the medical attention that I had needed for my psychological and medical conditions from being in the service," Lott said.

Those are just some examples of the help Jordan Health and the Monroe County Veterans Service Agency will now provide.

"We understand that help goes beyond the physical… how do you support the whole person?" said Jordan Health President and CEO Janice Harbin.

Hospital and county officials say this partnership was a long time coming.

"To ensure that they have the benefits and access to the resources… not just that they deserve but the resources that they earned," said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

With a large patient database consisting of veterans at Jordan Health, hundreds of veterans or spouses of veterans miss out on opportunities for benefits and thousands of dollars.

"We need to go where people are," said Monroe County Veterans Service Agency Nick Stefanovic. "Unfortunately, there’s been a disconnect. When a veteran is released from the military, the military has no responsibility to communicate with them after that. Often times the VA struggles to reach them to inform them of the services available to them."

With this partnership, the two organizations say they are staffed and equipped to ensure the disconnect doesn’t happen again.

"That’s where the county can step in through our Veterans Service Agency," Bello said. "What we have is a team of individuals there whose job it is and the focus there is linking veterans in the community who have not received or applied for those benefits that they’ve earned and we link them to those benefits at the VA."

The guide will be available to help you out at the Jordan Center on Holland Street every other Thursday.