WESTBROOK — The city officially opened the state’s first municipal Veterans Services office last week in a bid to bridge the gap between veterans and their benefits.
City officials and veterans turned out for a Jan. 17 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Westbrook Community Center office.
“It’s exceptional, and the needs are there,” said Steve Girard, commander of American Legion Post 197. “The whole benefits system is complicated, and that’s why veterans are so important. Veterans are frustrated and discouraged from trying to get these benefits, to which they are entitled, and give up. It’s a step to give them what they deserve.
The office will help veterans complete paperwork and connect with services for which they are eligible.
“We worked hard to create this office. Veterans have expectations of professionalism, and I think we’ve succeeded. It’s been a long time coming,” said Arty Ledoux, who will lead the office and has been certified by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Ledoux, a veteran, is the city’s director of utility operations. He will incorporate the Veterans Services role into his public works schedule and will not receive any additional pay. He worked with former Mayor Mike Sanphy to create the office.
All office items, from supplies to furniture, were donated by residents, city officials and a number of businesses, including IDEXX, WB Mason and Walmart, Ledoux said.
The office will also be the first in the city to use an electric vehicle. Ledoux will use the car to get clients to offices or state-level appointments.
Office visits are by appointment and can be scheduled on Fridays between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The office is always looking for veterans to sign up, in part to help them figure out how many veterans are in the city, which the city doesn’t currently know.
“This is just the beginning and it’s another piece of what we have to offer,” Mayor Mike Foley said.
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