Local Summit: Support Our “Hidden Heroes”

We often speak of the debt of gratitude America owes its military veterans.  However, veterans issues are generally not in the forefront of community consciousness here in Larchmont/Mamaroneck, in large part because we have a relatively small number of recent veterans compared to communities in other parts of the country.  Speakers on a distinguished and diverse panel highlighted several ways the Larchmont/Mamaroneck community can support its “hidden heroes” at a recent meeting of the Local Summit. Connection to Services

Panelists spoke about the importance of helping veterans connect to the services that will help them re-enter civilian life.  Gerald F. Culliton, Director of the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System, pointed out that new vets usually just want to get back to work and return to their old lives, and will often not seek out needed services.  Friends and family members play a vital role in convincing veterans to seek services.  Culliton went on to speak about how the VA has transformed itself in the last 10 or 12 years into a “tremendous health care system” for both medical and mental health issues.  He cautioned that federal funding for our VA hospitals is based on the number of veterans using these services.  Declining usage means budget cuts. Vito J. Pinto, Director of the Westchester County Veterans Service Agency, described how his office acts as a conduit to help Westchester County veterans identify and access services.  He asked the audience to help get the word out about the upcoming Veterans Town Hall Meeting being hosted by the County on Tuesday, March 29th. Besides providing resource information and referrals, the Veterans Service Agency also spearheads initiatives to recognize and assist veterans in the county.  One of these is the Find and Assist Veterans of Record (“FAVOR”) Program which signs merchants up to provide discounts of their choosing to honorably discharged veterans.  FAVOR cards are now available to qualifying vets, but the agency is seeking greater participation among area merchants.