MEDINA — According to the latest U.S. Census data, there are 13,865 veterans in Medina County, and the local veterans service office has reached out to about 60 percent of them, according to the office’s 2017 report.
“Twenty-five percent of them come into our office, which is huge compared to (other counties),” Ed Zackery, director of the Medina County Veterans Service Office, told county commissioners Tuesday. “We try to get out as much as possible.”
He said the main objectives of his office are to make veterans aware of the benefits available to them and to make sure they receive them. \Also, his office continues to establish a network throughout the county so residents understand the accomplishments of veterans.
Zackery’s office provides temporary emergency financial aid and assistance to veterans and their families for rent and mortgage payments, utilities, food, medical needs and transportation.
It also assists vets, family members and survivors when applying to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for benefits.
His office provided relief to 567 veterans and their families in 2017, of which 8 percent were new clients. The office provided $332,476 in vouchers for financial assistance in 2017.
Zackery said the average amount spent on assistance per veteran was $585.32 in 2017, which was lower than the previous year.
Zackery said his office filed 532 new VA claims in 2017, along with four appeals, and assisted nearly 2,500 veterans and family members with paperwork for the VA. All together with van riders, immediate assistance, VA claims and ancillary benefits, his office made 3,031 appointments in 2017.
In 2016, his office disbursed $33.6 million.
“The $33 million is direct money to veterans, which is spent in stores, restaurants and things around the county,” Zackery said. “It helps people to pay bills. It’s a great benefit for folks to get.”
2017 figures are expected to be available in April or May.
The veterans service office has partnered with Westside Vet Center in Parma for the last seven years.
“It provides free counseling to all combat veterans and their families,” Zackery said. “This has been a great service. They offer psychological counseling to veterans and their families for post-traumatic stress. They have to be a wartime veteran. They also do counseling in groups and families, (for) anyone involved in combat.”
Zackery said commissioners provide space for clinical psychologist Michelle Felgar from Parma at the Professional Building, 120 W. Washington St., on Mondays and Wednesdays. If interested, call (440) 845-5023.
She met with 537 vets in 2017. She also has started a group session for Vietnam vets.
“It’s worked out real well,” Zackery said.
The director said his office transported 1,231 veterans to VA Medical Centers at Cleveland, Parma and Akron.
Zackery said the trips reduce the dollars spent on Medicare and Medicaid coverage since a large percentage of these veterans may be under the poverty level or have no medical coverage. If this service was not available, he said these veterans might not receive the medical care they need.
He said there are two group homes for veterans in Medina County — on West 130th Street in Hinckley and Newbridge Place in Lodi. Both are monitored by Veterans Affairs.
Also, the VA contracts with several nursing homes within the county. Zackery said his office has assisted them so they can become certified and provide beds to eligible veterans.
He said there are 19 active veterans’ organizations in Medina County, which work closely with the veterans service office.
“Our commissioners are selected from those 19 posts,” Zackery said. “Recently, there has been a startup of a new group from Desert Storm, basically from the Persian Gulf all the way up to Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve been having meetings once a month, trying to get the younger veterans involved.”
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.