Downey, Air Force veteran, ready for new role
TEWKSBURY—Lisa Downey just wants to help.
Downey, who previously worked in the technology field, has, as of July 21, now moved into veterans’ services for the Town of Tewksbury.
“This is my first time being a VSO [a Veterans’ Services Officer],” she said.
She’s a veteran herself—which is how she ended up applying for the job.
“I myself needed to tap into my own veteran’s benefits,” Downey said.
So she contacted Jim Williams, her predecessor, and during the course of the conversation he mentioned that he was retiring. He suggested that she apply.
And she did.
“I applied and made it through all the interviews,” she said.
Now she’s going to make sure people are aware of their benefits. The sad thing is that many aren’t.
“When I got out of the [Air Force], I was blind [to the benefits for which she was eligible],” she said. “I kind of went off and did everything on my own.”
For instance, she didn’t know that there was a welcome home bonus, and she wasn’t aware of Chapter 115, which is financial assistance.
“The information is not out there,” she said. “People don’t know where to go.”
Regarding the job itself, Downey said this: “I think there’s just…a lot of satisfaction there.”
She recently helped a 96 year old WWII Veteran receive his benefits.
“It made me so happy,” she said. “It’s nice to talk to these people and hear their experiences and, you know, just listen to them,” she said.
Veterans Agent offices throughout are pretty uniform, she said.
“Essentially, our job is the same,” she said.
And they see all sorts of people.
“There is a range—from the young vets, all the way to WWII,” she said.
She’s going to focus on giving information.
“I just want to get the information out there,” she said. “I want people to feel comfortable coming in here.”
They certainly have: Downey has been on the job for three weeks, and she’s seen a lot of people. Thus she’d like to encourage visits—especially since, as she noted, many people aren’t aware of what they can receive.
And that also goes for dependents.
“A lot of people don’t realize their dependents qualify for benefits, too,” she said. An example: a a widow or widower of a veteran who makes less than $1,540 per month and has less than $3,200 in assets can qualify for benefits.
So stop by her office, which is located at the Tewksbury Senior Center on 175 Chandler Street.
“Come on in and see me, and we’ll see what we can do for you,” she said.
Downey, who originally hails from Dorchester, left the Air Force, where she served as a maintenance data systems analyst, in 2001. She served for four years.
People interested in more information can call her office: 978-640-4485. They can also call the state: 617-210-5480.