Carbon County Director of Veterans Affairs Henry Desrosiers spoke at Thursday's public commissioners meeting, encouraging people to attend Memorial Day ceremonies.
"I'm here to plead with the residents of Carbon County to support and participate with your veterans organizations," he said. This is a day of reverence. It is a very serious day in regards to veterans. If it wasn't for the sacrifice of those who died in the line of duty for this country, we wouldn't be standing here today, doing what we do."
Desrosiers also offered information on the services offered free of charge to veterans and their families through the county Department of Veterans Affairs.
Any veteran needing help is asked to call the department at (570) 325-3986. No attorney, personal financial planner or insurance company is needed to apply for VA benefits, he said.
He spoke about agencies and organizations that offer to help veterans and their families with various medical expenses.
"These agencies say they will do the claim, for free. But then, down the road, if an award is granted, they charge," he said. "We do not do that. We start from the beginning, we do the claim. We take power of attorney for representation to the (Veterans Affairs), and we continue, up until that veteran's death. And if the spouse is eligible after that veteran dies, we do the same for her.
"We don't just file a claim and say, you're on your own. We don't do that. We stay with it the whole time thorough," Desrosiers said.
He cautioned that there are numerous scams perpetrated against elderly veterans.
Our aging veterans are vulnerable, said Commissioners Chairman Wayne Nothstein. He cited an alert from the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
Veterans should never have to pay for help in applying for benefits.
"We've seen advertisements from businesses that offer veterans assistance in applying for benefits for free, then end up charging a fee for financial planning services," Brig. Gen. Mike Gould, the state's deputy adjutant general for veterans' affairs wrote in the CCAP alert.
"We need to get the word out that veterans should never pay for these services. Free assistance is readily available from any accredited veterans service officer at the Department of Military and Veterans affairs, the county Director of Veterans Affairs, or through a chartered veterans service organization such as the American Legion, VFW, DAV, or AMVETS, to name a few," he wrote.
the services include burial allowances, grave markers and headstones, disabled veterans real estate tax exemptions, emergency assistance, education gratuities, federal health care benefits, service-connected disability and nonservice connected disability pensions, and survivor benefits.
CCAP also issued an alert concerning organizations seeking donations on behalf of veterans.
Many are legitimate, but others are scams. People can check an organization's authenticity online at www.militaryonesource.mil. People can also access the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance at www.bbb.org/us/charity; or GuideStar at www.guidestar.org.
Scam "charity" organizations often spring up immediately following a major disaster.
Among the tricks scamsters use are thanking a person for a pledge the person didn't make; and using phony seals, names, titles or logos that are similar to those of legitimate organizations.