Veterans benefits

Monroe County Offers Veteran Benefits to Afghan Interpreters

Monroe County is taking extra steps to help Afghan interpreters and their families. County Executive Adam Bello notes that dozens of people have already arrived in the area this year, and that there could be up to 200 more refugees settling in Monroe County by the end of This year.

Bello announced that the County Veterans Services Agency will provide benefits to Afghan families.

“I asked the Monroe County Veterans Services Agency to provide benefits to these refugees, including access to mental health programs, employment resources and to connect them with a law firm that helps provide legal assistance,” Bello said.

Ali Moradi is one of the local Afghan refugees and a former interpreter. He’s been in Rochester since 2017, but said it’s even harder for new Afghan refugees arriving in that area as they try to find jobs and various services.

“The companies, they don’t know them, they don’t trust us, when we go looking for a job, they don’t trust us. They say, okay, ‘we can’t give you this job because, really, we don’t have any information about your background, where you’re from, or how you work, how your people work, how you talk'” , Moradi said. .

Bello says the county will work to help connect Afghan interpreters to employment services.

Nick Stefanovic is director of Veterans Services for Monroe County. He served about 18 months in Afghanistan and said he owed his life to his interpreter.

“To me, these SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) Afghans are brothers and sisters, and the rest of our veteran population believes the same in Monroe County. And I’m glad we’re opening a new door today and recognizing them as such. I hope businesses and the rest of the community recognize the service they have given to this country and the threat to their families at this time,” Stefanovic said.

A number of local organizations are contributing to the resettlement effort, including the Catholic Family Center, the Veterans Outreach Center and Keeping our Promise. Congressman Joe Morelle, (D-25), was also at Tuesday’s announcement. He said his staff were working almost around the clock to help Afghan interpreters and their families in the Rochester area.

Bello said the DeMarco Taylor Law Group will provide free basic legal advice to performers and their families.