Rockland County Director of the Veterans Service Agency Jerry Donellan said reaching veterans can be a challenge. Donellan said the difficulty comes from getting updated lists from the federal government of soldiers returning as well as making direct contact with veterans once he knows how to reach them. Donellan has been working to get that contact information in a timely manner.
Donnellan said he has been receiving names from the Veterans’ Administration but think the Department of Defense should be supplying them.
“I think there’s a step farther that we could take,” he said on Tuesday. “And I realize this may be a bridge too far. The Department of Defense obviously knows where the veterans are coming back to. They do it by zip codes in the same way that we get the information on the returning vets.”
Donnellan’s job is to inform about services and benefits available to them.
He said the veteran’s mindset is they take care of themselves and are reluctant to seek help once they return home. He added that the required paperwork often discourages them. But if the Defense Department requires them to visit their local , the process can start more quickly.
His office is purposely located in an office building away from other government entities. But veterans do not necessarily have to go to his office to get assistance; they can go online to www.rockvets.com and gather information.
“This is a way veterans can find out about benefits without coming into the office,” he explained.
Donnellan said he has sent handwritten letters to the 150 veterans who have returned to Rockland since 2010. The letters described what benefits were available to them and what help was offered to assist them with the transition from the military to civilian life and work.
He noted several causes for the high number of unemployed veterans. He said employers may be skittish about hiring them because of concerns about posttraumatic stress disorder or if the veteran remains active in the military.
“Half of our standing force now is (National) guard or reserve,” he said, adding employers can be hesitant to hire someone who may be called to active duty.
The end result is over-qualified veterans taking entry-level jobs.
“You’ve got guys who led platoons in combat fighting for the jobs at fast food places,” said Donnellan.