Veterans'Administration facility to be opened in Goshen.

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:51

    GOSHEN-The Orange County Legislature's Human Services Committee last week proposed an amendment to the veterans' services budget and was briefed on a new Veterans' Administration facility to be opened in Goshen. Back in July, Sid Tendler, commander of Jewish American War Veterans Post in Monroe, asked Orange County to provide money to help his post send gift packages to overseas veterans. The Human Services Committee declined to finance the efforts of one veteran's group. Instead, it asked Tony Zippo, the director of the Orange County Veterans' Services to put together a list of groups working to show support for service members as a first step. With the information in hand, the committee voted Friday to add $10,000 to the veterans' services portion of County Executive Edward Diana's budget. The money would be allocated by the Veterans' Coalition, which is made up of representatives of all the county's posts. Committee Chairman Michael Amo of Central Valley said the coalition would be able to evaluate the various programs and determine their needs. The coalition's recommendations would be given to Zippo, who would decide on them. Minority Leader Anthony Marino suggested that the grant be set up so that the coalition would be required to clear its planned use of the money with the Legislature. That would not be legal, said Legislature Counsel Antoinette Gluszak. If the money is in the Veterans' organization budget, the Legislature can't ask them to come back for approval. However, Zippo said, if the money is in his department's budget, he would have final approval on its use. "The coalition would approve it, then it would come to me for approval," he said. Legislature Clerk Gail Sicina pointed out that the Legislature could ask Zippo to report regularly on what grants were given out of the fund. Zippo reported that the Veterans Administration is planning to move the clinic from Middletown to Goshen. The new clinic is slated to open later this month. Zippo described the new clinic as "state of the art." If veterans can be persuaded to use it, rather than Medicaid, the county could save money. Medicaid is almost entirely covered by the county, while the Veterans' Administration health system is federally funded. The clinic will have three staff physicians, 11 examining rooms, a laboratory, vision care and a podiatrist. However, Zippo noted, vets are not required to use the VA system. One problem may be transportation. The Middletown clinic was handy for many veterans, and the regular bus routes are not conveniently scheduled. Amo suggested the county could provide van service. Another problem is that veterans are not aware that this clinic is available. The Veterans Service intends to increase its outreach through mail and through news outlets, he said. In addition to the clinic, veterans can take advantage of employment workshops, tax breaks for vets and other programs through the Veterans' Service, Zippo said. Many are unaware of these benefits, he added. Information is available by calling 291-2470. In other veterans' matters, Zippo announced donations of $200 in memory of Sam Cobb and $500 from Vietnam Veterans of America. The committee approved an appropriation for a gazebo and two benches for $2,830. The gazebo and benches will be set up, along with the Thomas Agnew Memorial, in a section of the cemetery to be called Thomas Agnew memorial garden. Zippo announced that the cemetery had received a donation of a 400-pound golden eagle that will be mounted on the main monument at the cemetery. "Eddie Diana said an eagle would be great on the monument," Zippo said. "We looked into the cost, and it was way too high. But Lennie Ripkin heard we needed it, and he donated it." Veterans information available Orange County Veterans' Service Agency offers information, counseling and assistance on a variety of Veterans' Administration matters. • Pension benefits for veterans who served during wartime, were discharged honorably and were disabled. Benefits may also be available for surviving spouses. • Compensation benefits for veterans who have diseases or disabilities caused by military service, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. • Real property tax exemption for some veterans. • Military records and medals: If you have misplaced your separation record, the agency can help you apply for a copy. • A free van service to VA locations. • Burial benefits: burial in the Orange County Veterans' Cemetery is free for veterans, with reasonable cost for their families. Information about these services can be obtained from the Orange County Veterans' Service Agency, Box 359, 111 Craigville Road, Goshen, NY 10924. The phone number is 291-2470.