By Rita J. Egan
A North Shore library is working hand-in-hand with its veterans to help them gain access to their necessary benefits.
The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket invites veterans across the community to attend an outreach program hosted by the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center at the library, which is scheduled for Thursday, July 14. Nancy McCaffrey, adult programs librarian at Emma Clark, said she sees many veterans visiting the library on a regular basis wearing their various armed forces hats and shirts. With the library’s help, she said she hoped those veterans could discover the various benefits available to them at the library’s outreach event.
“We assist veterans with enrollment, in getting health care through the VA system, we update their information, and sit with them one-on-one to discuss their personal benefits.”
She said the goal of the program — the first of its kind held at Emma Clark Library — would help to disseminate information to the veterans as well as help update their statuses.
“There are a lot of good programs out there for them that they may not be aware of,” McCaffrey said.
Every year, Wendy Robertson, community relations coordinator with the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, reaches out to as many locations as possible on Long Island. She said the venues include American Legion halls, fire departments and public libraries on the island. The coordinator said the organization averages around 70 to 80 outreach programs a year in Suffolk and Nassau counties.
Robertson said libraries are a great location for such a program because while some veterans may not belong to a local post of The American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, many tend to frequent libraries.
The coordinator said it’s important for veterans to regularly update their information with the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as educate themselves about new programs available to them. She said many have received information a long time ago, and a lot of it has changed.
“The outreach program is to offer information, and update veterans on what their benefits are, and what their entitlements are with the VA,” she said. “What we do is assist the veterans with enrollment, in getting health care through the VA system, we update their information, and we also sit with them one-on-one at the events to discuss their personal benefits.”
Robertson said that veterans’ needs change as they grow older, and the VA can assist them with things such as hearing aids or health attendants. The program will also allow veterans to learn about new health care options as well as find out about six locations on Long Island now offering VA care.
The coordinator said attendance to the events varies depending on the time of year and location. She said anywhere from a few hundred to a handful of veterans can attend.
“A lot of the veterans feel that they are taking away from somebody else, and that’s really the opposite, so that’s what our mission is to give them what they are entitled to,” Robertson said.
The Veterans Outreach Program will be held on Thursday, July 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and there’s no need to register. However, veterans are asked to bring a copy of their DD214 or separation papers. The Emma S. Clark Memorial Library is located at 120 Main St. in Setauket. For more information, call 631-941-4080, ext. 107, or visit emmaclark.org or northport.va.gov.