New Veterans Outreach Office Opens in Pittsfield
Michael King knows firsthand that it can get tricky navigating veterans benefits programs and he's ready to help out any veteran who needs it.
"Every issue, generally speaking, has a different process to follow," King said.
King is the case manager of the brand-new Pittsfield Veterans Outreach Center.
It opened on the second floor of 106 Wendell Ave. last Monday as a chapter of the non-profit Bilingual Veterans Outreach Centers of Massachusetts Inc. The organization has been in existence since 1987 with centers in Springfield and Boston. Eventually, it closed the Boston location and identified a need for additional services in Berkshire County.
The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 until 4:30 and serves as a resource for pretty much anything a veteran would need and veterans are welcome from anywhere.
The center offers a lengthy list of ways to help and King highlighted a few of those. One of the items he's been interested in is helping veterans who were not honorably discharged upgrade that status.
He said he's making sure veterans are accounted for regarding hazards they faced during their time. He said current veterans who served in certain areas should be on the open burn pit and airborne hazard registry now so they are accounted for in the future.
King served in the Army for 21 years as military police before retiring in 2015.
He is now in the process of becoming a certified veterans service officer that will allow him to have much more access to the VA system and benefits. He said he'll have that certification within three months.
The office is staffed by only King and secretary Kimberly Peters but he hopes to see it expand in the future. But now, it's open and if a veteran can't make it there or has accessibility issues getting to the second floor, King will come to them.
"If somebody can't make it here, we'll find a way to make it work," King said.