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Veterans Affairs' mobile center bringing info on services, benefits to Holyoke – MassLive.com

HOLYOKE — Veterans and their families will have an opportunity to learn about services and benefits available to them when the U.S. Veterans Affairs’ Mobile Vet Center rolls into C-Town Supermarket at 13 Cabot St. on Sept. 19.

Veterans and their families can meet directly with VA and Holyoke Veterans Service staff from 2 to 6 p.m.

Jesus Pereira, who directs the Holyoke Veterans Services Department, said the mobile center acts as an initial point of contact for some veterans who are unaware of services or benefits due them.

The VA also offers reintegration and recovery programs for vets and their families.

Pereira said the Mobile Vet Center provides easy access to underserved communities like South Holyoke, C-Town’s location. The Holyoke event is a first for the Mobile Vet Center, a retrofitted recreational vehicle.

Participants and their families can also meet with Veterans Health Administration officials, the agency that manages a national network of clinics and hospitals.

Pereira, a state and national service officer, assists veterans with the Chapter 115 benefit program, which provides financial and medical assistance for income-eligible veterans and their families.

He added the VA operates a “brick and mortar” center in Springfield. “They’re a great organization, and we collaborate with them,” he said.

Pereira said the Mobile Vet Centers “puts people in front of service providers.” For veterans reluctant to seek help, a peer-to-peer or vet-to-vet model can break down barriers.

“What you see is just another veteran. So, you put your guard down, and you’re more open to listening as to what services are provided,” he said. “We can get people signed up with the healthcare and local services if they need it.”

Pereira and Wilfredo Melendez, the deputy veterans director in Holyoke, will represent the Western Massachusetts Veterans Service Officers Association. Besides the Chapter 115 program, Pereira and Melendez can assist veterans with federal benefits applications.

Pereira and his staff recently helped a former special forces veteran obtain service-connected disability payments 45 days after applying. “Not only will he get his military retirement, but he’ll also get another $1,700 on top of it,” he said. “He also gets VA healthcare.”

He added that local, state and federal veterans agencies often worked in silos or separately. “We’ve embraced the solution-oriented position,” Pereira said. The Holyoke office can file an application directly to the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance.

Pereira said the office adheres to strict privacy guidelines, ensuring veterans and their families can speak confidentially with staff. “You don’t have to worry about people knowing your business,” he said.

The U.S. Veterans Affairs' Mobile Vets Center visits Holyoke Sept. 19 at C-Town Market.

The U.S. Veterans Affairs’ Mobile Vets Center visits Holyoke Sept. 19 at C-Town Market.


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