Bloomfield holds its first veterans resource fair

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The first-ever Bloomfield Veterans Resource Fair was held Saturday, Nov. 12, in the Bloomfield High School lobby. The event was sponsored by the Bloomfield Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs Department, under the auspices of its subcommittee for veterans. 

Department Director Michael L. Sceurman said the subcommittee had discussed how the township could reach out to veterans and their families. It was decided that a resource fair, informing veterans of benefits, of which they may be unaware, was a good start. At the fair, there were approximately 10 organizations, at individual tables, with information for the asking.

“People don’t realize that if you’re a vet, you are eligible for a $250 tax credit,” Sceurman said. “But you have to apply. Also, if you are a vet and 100-percent disabled, you do not pay property taxes. And if the deed hasn’t changed, this benefit goes to the widow.”

There was plenty of information at the fair, provided to veterans by veterans.

At the Disabled American Veterans table, John Sanders, an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, said the DAV would help veterans with their Veterans Affairs claims and try to get them more money.

“The money is scheduled to a percentage rate,” he said, “but over time, their condition may worsen.”

He said most veterans appeal their claim, but the DAV recommends that they not do this alone.

“It’s like trying to fight the government on your own,” he said.

The Department of Veteran Affairs also had a table, managed by Guy Vanterpool, an Army veteran.

“We offer mental health counseling for combat veterans and their families,” he said. “We’ve also expanded eligibility to the National Guard.”

Vanterpool said that in earlier eras, veterans were generally male. Now, that is not the case, and, with the National Guard also eligible, vets are older.

SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, was there, with Bloomfield resident Chris Stanziale, a Navy vet, manning the table. 

“We mentor veterans who want to go into business,” he said. “It’s a free service.”

Stanziale said he used SCORE in 1970 to help him get started in an automobile business.

United Health Care was represented at the fair, as was the Bloomfield Department of Human Resources.

The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial provided information. Its site, in Holmdel, contains the only museum dedicated to Vietnam War casualties in the country. This is poignant in New Jersey, as 1,563 N.J. residents died in the war, including Eleanor Grace Alexander, an Army nurse who was one of seven female deaths in the war. Thirteen Bloomfield residents lost their lives in the war. The average age of a casualty was 19. 

Clarence Jackson Jr. from the Essex County advisory board had a table. 

“Our primary function is to listen to vets for a report to provide to a commission determining the state of veterans,” he said.

Jackson, who served in the Air Force from 1968 to 1974, said veterans do not realize they can call the county office for assistance. He also encouraged veterans to apply for a Veteran ID card.

Sceurman said that, for next year, he hopes to expand the fair by involving the Suburban Essex Chamber of Commerce and the N.J. Motor Vehicle Commission.

Photos by Daniel Jackovino