The Saratoga County Veterans Service Agency will start a new outreach program on Tuesday, trying to meet with more veterans in far-flung corners of the county.
Veteran services officer Frank McClement will be at the Corinth EMS building from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, starting what will become monthly visits to communities that lie a distance from the agency’s office in Ballston Spa.
“We’re going to reach out and let people know who we are and what we do,” said Felipe Moon, the county’s director of veterans’ services.
Saratoga County has an estimated 16,400 resident veterans, but county officials say several thousand have never sought veterans benefits or other assistance through the county office.
“Every day I meet a veteran who doesn’t know he qualifies for benefits,” Moon said.
With World War II and Korean War veterans now in their 80s or older, it’s believed that fewer of them are willing to travel a long distance to obtain benefit forms or seek advice.
To reach people who don’t want to drive that far, McClement will be visiting an outlying community on the last Tuesday of each month.
The first visit will be to Corinth, where the county hopes people from Day, Hadley and Edinburg will also be willing to come for assistance.
The current plans are to be at the Waterford Town Hall on Oct. 29, in Schuylerville in November, in Clifton Park in December, and in Galway in January, after which the rotation will return to Corinth.
“We’ve done outreach, but we haven’t done a regular recurring program like this,” McClement said.
He said the five communities were selected because of their distance from Ballston Spa and the size of the local populations.
“We picked the locations because of geographical distance and identified need, and in the case of Clifton Park because of the size of its population,” McClement said.
McClement, a former Army paratrooper, said there are programs for veterans of every age, from World War II veterans to those recently returned from Afghanistan or Iraq.
He said many veterans don’t come to the office until they need help, but he’d rather see them sooner.
“If no one has ever sat down with a veterans service officer, then it’s in their best interest to do so,” McClement said.
In a 30- to 60-minute meeting, he said, he can determine what benefits a veteran might qualify for, either now or in the future.
“There’s a lot of stuff out there people may not be aware that they qualify for,” McClement said.
Moon noted the outreach program is just one of a half-dozen initiatives in the office, including a peer-to-peer counseling program, employment assistance, assistance with starting or running a business, and a trust fund for dealing with individual cases of need.
“We want to make sure our veterans in Saratoga County know that we’re here and that we want to have an impact on their lives for the better,” said Moon, an Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.