Nutley's Military and Veterans Affairs Bureau
Ensuring Prompt and
Personal Attention for
Service Families and Veterans
By Steve Rogers
Throughout Nutley’s long history, we have always seen our residents step up and volunteer to assist local government with a host of programs that are designed to address issues affecting the people who live and work in our municipality. Therefore, soon after I was elected to office on May 8, 2012 and became the Director of Public Affairs, I decided to once again call upon our residents to assist with a new initiative that directly impacts all of the military families and veterans who reside in Nutley.
Establishing the Bureau On June 5, 2012, I introduced a resolution during our Board of Commissioners meeting that permanently established, as part of the Nutley Department of Public Affairs, a Military and Veterans Affairs Bureau. I was pleased to see that the entire governing body adopted the resolution unanimously. I also met with Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R—11th District) and shared with him the “nuts and bolts” of this initiative. He is excited about its potential and offered
Since becoming Director of Public Affairs, I noticed that many veterans, for whatever reason, are unaware of the services and benefits available through the Veterans Administration. When I put the call out for volunteers to help, the response was overwhelming. Doctors, lawyers, counselors, business leaders, teachers, nurses and others from a wide range of
professions have stepped up to join this effort.
Soon after the resolution passed, I assigned a local Vietnam War veteran to the position of Director of Military and Veterans Affairs and an Iraqi War veteran as his assistant.
This initiative is close to my heart because I am a retired U.S. Navy Commander, and my son was a U.S. Marine assigned to a combat unit in Iraq. I’m very aware of the needs of our military families and veterans.
Since becoming Director of Public Affairs,
I noticed that many veterans, for whatever reason, are unaware of the services and
benefits available through the Veterans Administration. When I put the call out for volunteers to help, the response was overwhelming. Doctors, lawyers, counselors, business leaders, teachers, nurses and others from a wide range of professions have stepped up to join this effort. The Military and Veterans Affairs Bureau is also a collaborative partnership of the entire Board of Commissioners and their respective departments. All of my colleagues have in some way or another contributed to the health, safety and welfare of our veterans and military families. This initiative brings all of our efforts together to better serve this group of citizens.
The Bureau will serve as a ‘one stop service center’ and provide a number of free services to all Nutley veterans, as well as active duty and reservist personnel and their spouses and children. This is a work in progress and the services we are planning to provide local veterans include assistance with completing forms, finding employment, financial planning, working with the V.A. on providing educational and other benefits, counseling for retiring veterans and their families, basic health care check-ups through the Nutley Department of Health, and assistance with home retention, property maintenance and legal affairs. These services will come at no cost to the veteran, service member or taxpayers.
Meeting the Needs One week after I announced this initiative, the wife of a WWII veteran came to my office and shared a very compelling story.
She and her husband had lost their home and now live on a very limited income. They also lack access to health insurance to pay for medical care they both desperately need.
Within 24 hours, I assigned this case to a nurse who works with the new bureau. She made an assessment of their needs and we established a schedule to meet those needs. Within 48 hours we delivered to the veteran and his wife real tangible help, without any red tape or long confusing forms to fill out. After we got them the immediate help they needed, I assigned a local veteran as a liaison to work with them and the Veterans Administration.
Another case that came to my attention involved the mother of a solider who is deployed in Afghanistan. She has not been able to sleep and needed someone to talk with. I assigned personnel in our new bureau to make an assessment and they ultimately arranged counseling sessions for her.
Involving Students Another component of this program involves the young people of our community. We are giving Nutley High School seniors and college students an opportunity to serve their country and township by volunteering to periodically interact, and to check on the welfare of Nutley’s veterans, residents who are presently serving in the military, and their family members.
I saw a need to keep a check on the welfare and health of many of our veterans, and because many employers and colleges are looking for resumes that include some type of voluntary community service, I thought, why not ask our young people to help out?
Students who volunteer will be asked to attend a workshop held by the
Nutley Department of Public Affairs.
Once trained, each student will be given a list of veterans and military families and asked to select an individual or family to “adopt.” The students will be interacting with veterans and military personnel via phone, the internet, and in some cases during personal visits with our staff. Upon completion of their assignment the students will receive a Certificate of Appreciation and a letter stating that they completed a community service program.
Members of Nutley's Military and Veterans Affairs Bureau include (back row, left to right)
Andy Vininski, Courtney Johnson, Daryl Root, Jack Kane and (front row, left to right) Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, Commissioner Steven Rogers, Michael Teresse and Dan Jacoby.
Honoring Those Who Serve This past summer, I personally visited the homes of all 970 veterans and military family members who live in
Nutley. First, I thanked them for their service on behalf of my colleagues on the Board of Commissioners and the people of Nutley. I also gave them a window decal in recognition of their service and information about the new Bureau of Military and Veterans Affairs and other services available
I hope what we are doing in Nutley becomes a model for other New Jersey municipalities to follow. We are planning to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Veterans Day to officially launch the new Bureau.
First published in New Jersey
Municipalities, Volume 89, Number 7, October 2012