The state agency is working to dismantle the perception that veterans services can be unapproachable, said Kristen Lucier, the service officer in Amesbury. There are more than 200 veterans’ service offices in cities and towns across the state; in other states, that kind of direct connection is typically county-based.
The department has also made great strides in streamlining veterans’ access to benefits. What was once considered a quagmire of bureaucracy has now been simplified enormously by the power of the Internet.
If a veteran is reluctant to seek help, said Lucier, a Navy veteran, the department’s outreach team “will meet you at Dunkin’ Donuts, or in your living room. There’s no wrong door into the system in Massachusetts.”
What officials call a “culture shift” in the department has coincided with a shift in the public’s attitude toward veterans since 9/11, said Yarde. Today, when he walks down the street wearing his black Marine Corps baseball cap, passersby stop and thank him for his service. That never occurred in the years after Vietnam, he said.
Actively engaging the current generation of veterans and tending to their needs is a critical function of today’s government, Lambert said. “Do it now, and you won’t have to do it in 40 years.”
James Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.