In honor of Veterans Day, the Pike County Administrative Building, Courthouse and Veterans Affairs Office will be illuminated green through November 12 as part of Operation Green Light for Veterans, a nationwide effort uniting counties to support military veterans. The initiative, led by the National County Association of Counties (NACo), raises awareness around the unique challenges faced by many veterans and the resources available at the county, state, and federal levels to assist veterans and their families.
Now, in its second year, Operation Green Light is spearheaded by NACo and the National Association of County Veterans Services Officers, building upon successful efforts by the New York State Association of Counties and the NYS County Veteran Service Officers’ Association in 2021. In 2022, over 300 counties participated in Operation Green Light, Pike being one.
Jesiah Schrader, Pike’s veterans affairs director said, “This is the second year we as a county have participated in Operation Green Light. It’s great to see the county buildings illuminated green in support of the veterans and their families. Participating in this important initiative helps bring awareness to the fact that we need to meet the challenges that many of our veterans face as well as how the Veterans Affairs Office can help assist.”
Commissioner Matthew Osterberg said, “Pike County is always proud to participate in initiatives that support our veteran population. By once again participating in Operation Green Light, we demonstrate to our veterans that we see them, appreciate them, and support them. We have a dedicated staff at our Veterans Affairs office who are busy throughout the year helping to assist veterans and their families to access the services they are entitled to.”
In addition to lighting county buildings, bridges, and other meaningful landmarks, residents, businesses and other organization are encouraged to participate by simply changing one light bulb in their home or business to a green bulb. This can be an exterior light that neighbors and passersby see, or an interior light that sparks conversation with friends.
“Operation Green Light is a gesture of support and appreciation for the public service of our veterans,” said NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase. “With hundreds of counties coming together to light everything green from bridges to courthouses, we know veterans across the country will see and feel the gratitude we all feel for their services and sacrifices.”
Counties and residents across the country are sharing their participation on social media using the hashtag #OperationGreenLight.
For more information on Operation Green Light, visit naco.org/program/operation-green-light-veterans.
Veterans Affairs updates
Veterans Affairs Director Jesiah Schrader shared that the office has seen tremendous growth in the past year.
Approximately this time last year, a deputy director position was created within the office to ensure it is adequately staffed and able to accommodate the influx of clients. Since then, the deputy director has successfully completed veteran service officer training and the office now is staffed by two accredited veterans services officers who are able to assist the approximately 4,000 Pike County veterans and their families with county, state and federal benefits.
The Pike County VA office represents 38% of local veterans. This is an increase of 3% from the previous year. On a daily basis, the office assists five to six walk-in clients, in addition to its scheduled appointments. Currently, the office was able to increase VA monetary benefits administered to the veterans and surviving spouses in our community by $1 million, representing a current total amount of $8.8 million annually.
Earlier this year, the VA office expanded Pike’s Disabled Veterans Real Estate Tax Exemption Program to non-wartime veterans and their surviving spouses, those killed in the line of duty, and posthumous 100% disability, which has helped to alleviate real estate property taxes for more veterans and their surviving spouses.
With the rapid growth the office has experienced, the Commissioners felt it needed room to grow. The office is in the process of relocating to a larger facility on Route 6 in Shohola. Plans include a designated meeting space to be used for groups, classes and additional services. Schrader also plans to have a professional from the Vet Center provide mental health services to veterans and spouses.