Especially in this time of great economic uncertainty, increasing awareness for veteran benefits could be what keeps a struggling family afloat. Whether to pay for rent or utilities or any other day-to-day expense, programs like Chapter 115 exist to provide financial assistance to low-income veterans when they need it most.
Chapter 115 provides financial assistance to low-income veterans and their dependents, including survivors, across Massachusetts. Whether they need monthly assistance or one-time needs based funds, the Chapter 115 program is meant to help veteran families with expenses like rent, utilities, medical bills, or other everyday bills.
Unfortunately, many veterans don’t know that these benefits exist, let alone if they qualify. Steve Connor is working to change that.
Connor has worked in veterans’ services for 16 years. Today, he is the Director of Veteran Services for several districts including Northampton, Williamsburg, Amherst, Pelham, Chesterfield, Cummington, Hadley, Middlefield and in the VA Medical Center in Leeds. Throughout his career, he’s worked diligently to build awareness of this financial assistance that veterans have earned through their service.
“The further you get outside of the city, the less known the benefits are,” said Connor. “And 16 years ago, they really weren’t known. That’s how I took over all of these towns. Veterans went and asked for help but no one knew how to. No one knew that this program existed.”
When he began, only 12 recipients were receiving Chapter 115 benefits in a city of 28,000 citizens. Steve created an outreach program to connect with recent widows and widowers and their families, and with homeless shelters. Now, well over 100 veterans access Chapter 115 in the City of Northampton each month and over 250 district wide.
Connor has also utilized a new, online tool with veterans to help them learn if they may be eligible for Chapter 115. The Massachusetts Veteran Benefit Calculator is an online, public resource for veterans and their families that can be accessed from a computer, phone, or tablet. It can be completed by anyone on behalf of a veteran or a dependent of a veteran, and will help them learn if they may qualify for monthly, or one-time, financial assistance.
Connor stresses that this financial assistance isn’t a handout: these are benefits that veterans have earned through their service.
“I know from being in the service and working with veterans that they’re a proud group,” Connor said. “This is a needs based program, which is hard for some people, but we go about it by reminding veterans and their families that they’ve earned these benefits. I always remind them that these benefits are earned and this is what Massachusetts has decided to give you because of your service.”
Steve is right. By connecting with this program, struggling veterans in Massachusetts can start receiving the assistance they have earned and that can make such a difference for them and their families.