Jaime Melendez takes his job seriously. And for good reason. As a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) and Director of Veteran Services in the city of Lawrence, and as President of Massachusetts Veteran Service Officers Association, his job is to ensure that veterans access the benefits they’ve earned as they navigate life as civilians.
Jaime frequently works with veterans who are unemployed, retired and disabled. One of the great challenges is that they frequently aren’t aware that they may be eligible for a statewide program, known as Chapter 115, that offers financial assistance for low-income veterans and their dependents, including survivors. These benefits can make the difference between day-to-day insecurity and putting food on the table or making rent.
For Jaime’s clients, the process of applying to Chapter 115 has been daunting. That has begun to change with new tools like the Massachusetts Veteran Benefit Calculator that create an easy and approachable way for veterans to learn if they may qualify for these benefits. It makes the process easier for both the veteran and their VSO, and it allows veterans to get their benefits quicker by preparing them ahead of the meeting with their VSO.
“That is something that the Massachusetts Veteran Benefit Calculator really helps with,” Melendez said. “It helps prepare veterans before they come in here and gives them a checklist of what they’ll need to bring in that very first meeting.”
Veterans Service Officers, who are responsible for submitting into the official applications for Chapter 115 on behalf of veterans, remain the critical contact for veterans seeking to access these benefits. Veterans generally trust their VSOs, and VSOs are the people best equipped to help a veteran determine if they are eligible for Chapter 115. As veterans themselves, VSOs are in a special position to help other veterans access their benefits. Jaime understands how important this connection is.
“There are many systems out there that help the general population in times of need. The reason why we exist and why this program is so important is because it gives our veterans a community of their own. It gives them a chance to talk to someone who is like them, to a fellow veteran,” said Jaime.
VSOs like Jaime spend their days making sure veterans are taken care of and receive the support they have earned. With tools like the Massachusetts Veteran Benefit Calculator, we hope to help these dedicated VSOs and the veterans they serve.
Access the Massachusetts Veteran Benefit Calculator here.
Find your local VSO here.