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Acushnet man of the year: Ronald Cormier
The Advocate - 1/11/2018
ACUSHNET - In nominating Acushnet Veterans Service Officer Ronald Cormier as The Advocate's 2017 Acushnet Man of the Year, World War II veteran Leo Brillon praised Cormier "for the great personal service he renders to ALL veterans of the community."
"He is an asset to the town. WE APPRECIATE HIM!" the U.S. Navy veteran of the war in the Pacific wrote in his letter to the newspaper.
"He takes care of the veterans, and he does a good job," Brillon added in a follow-up telephone interview. "He's attentive, he pays attention to detail... he's meticulous in his work," the 90-something veteran said of his dealings with Cormier.
As Cormier approaches his tenth year on the job as the town's Veterans Service Officer, he said he is glad to hear that the town's veterans appreciate his work ethic, and his dedication to the job. He was more surprised to hear that his co-workers at Acushnet Town Hall also think that he is outstanding, well-respected for all the little things he does, even when not working in his tiny office on the second floor of the government center of this small town two days per week.
"He is a wonderful guy," were the first words out of the mouth of the selectmen's administrative assistant, Lisa Leonard. "He's very outgoing, and he's always there to help, no matter what the cause is here in town."
As an example of how thoughtful and considerate Cormier is, Leonard noted, "Every year on Administrative Assistants Day, he always brings in pastries for the ladies here at Town Hall."
The sign on the door of his Town Hall office says he is there only two days per week - Mondays and Thursdays - but the Veterans Services Officer job is really a 24/7 job, Cormier said.
His business card contains his personal cell phone number, and he takes calls from veterans and their families nights, weekends, and holidays, the Air Force veteran of the years 1966 to 1970 admitted. "You do what you have to do" when a fellow veteran in need calls looking for help, he said; "This is not a job you leave behind at 5 o'clock."
"I love the job... it's satisfying when you can help the people who need assistance," the retired Verizon employee said. "Anybody who's served their country in uniform is entitled to certain benefits, and deserves everything they're qualified to receive," and it's his duty to help them get any of the benefits or services they are eligible for, he said.
But, he suggested, there are also some "negatives" to the position. "There's a lot of pressure" to meet the demands of the job with limited hours, and "a lot of concern for my clients" when they are in need of services, Cormier said.
The pressure of a VSO's job increases during this time of year because veterans and widows receiving veterans' benefits have to be re-qualified every January, providing proof of residency and certifying their current income levels in order to continue to receive those state or federal benefits.
"This is a tough time of year," Cormier said, describing the end of December as a "hectic" period for him and other VSOs.
In general, the work schedule may vary a bit with the seasons, but the demands on his time have also increased in general over the years, he said. "When I started this job, I had 16 clients... now, I'm up to about 40 clients," he said.
Many of the people served by his office are World War II veterans, mostly in their late 80s or early 90s. "Most of my clients are elderly," Cormier said. "They're sweethearts... most of them are a pleasure to work with."
A few others are widows of older veterans entitled to some of the benefits earned by their spouse, and a handful of others are younger vets who have recently left various branches of the military. No matter what their age or status in terms of benefits, helping those clients who live in Acushnet is a fulfilling mission, he said.
"We're here to provide an important service," Cormier said. The "we" in that statement reflects the town's dedication to helping him complete that mission, he pointed out.
"This town is magnificent" in terms of providing help to its veterans, he said. "There's never been a problem getting what I ask for" to help a veteran, he added.
The town receives a 75 percent reimbursement from the state Department of Veterans Affairs for whatever eligible benefits it provides to its residents who have served, he said.
The expenditures could be higher if all qualified veterans actually applied for the benefits they are entitled to, Cormier said. "A lot of vets don't even know we're here to help them," he said; similarly, many widows of veterans don't know they are eligible to continue receiving a portion of their spouses' benefits.
So, part of the job description is continuous outreach to veterans, through local vets organizations, and the Council on Aging, spreading the word that he is there to help.
It is a job he hopes to continue doing for many more years, Cormier said. "I'd love to do it as long as I can," he said.