October 18, 2021

Veterans fair provides opportunity to learn about benefits

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Frank Sockbeson, of Marathon, speaks Thursday with Lynn Fox of Clear Path for Veterans that the veterans resource fair hosted by Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s office at Central New York Living History Museum.

Some veterans came to Thursday’s veterans resource fair to get insight; Laura Morehouse of Cortland came seeking justice for her father, Roger Morehouse.

Roger Morehouse, who trained to become a Marine in early 1970s, was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and given six months to live, Laura Morehouse said, adding he drank contaminated water while training at Camp Lejeune, which she says led to his development of the cancer.

More than 20 people showed up to see what resources and programs were available to them in Cortland County and other nearby areas, and to speak with Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica), a member of the the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Eleven organizations including Access to Independence of Cortland County Inc. and Clear Path for Veterans, a veterans support organization, explained the services they provide.

“It is very important to me to make sure we are getting all the services out to our veterans across the community,” Brindisi said. “These men and women sacrificed their time, and in many cases, they have friends and family members who paid the ultimate sacrifice and I think we have to do everything we can as a country to honor our veterans. One way of doing that is to make them aware of the services that are available in their community.”

Morehouse said she wanted to talk to Brindisi about her father’s case.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, “people living or working at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals,” reports the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The navy estimates more than 900,000 people were exposed to the chemical, and the Department of Veterans Affairs expects to pay out $2.2 billion in claims.

Morehouse said she was at Thursday’s event to “try and gather information to see what services he may be able to use and try to make his last six months as comfortable as they can and try to get him some justice.”

“These men and women served their country and they’re still dying for it after he retired and left,” she said.

She planned to do research on how to proceed with her case to ultimately make a claim against the the Department of Veterans Affairs as she said prostate cancer has been linked to drinking the contaminated water. She said she wanted to work with Brindisi to make sure the situation can be rectified.

John Patterson of Binghamton came to hear about veterans issues Brindisi was talking about.

“He (Brindisi) has a great listening ear,” said Patterson, who served with the Navy from 1967 to 1970 in Mississippi. “It’s not so much the veterans — he is trying to help them — but he is trying to connect the bureaucracy to the VA.”

Patterson said he has received good care from the VA but that it needs to work on getting information out more clearly on benefits veterans can take advantage of.

Frank Sockbeson of Marathon said the fair was a good way for politicians like Brindisi to reach out to their community.

“I think we need more politicians doing things like this to get in touch with their constituents,” he said. “When they hold events like this and talk to us, then they start understanding our situation, what we need and what’s going on in our lives. Then they can make more logical, proper decisions and policies.”

Sockbeson, a mechanic stationed in Germany in the early 1970s, said events like this also helped veterans like him feel like a part of the community.

“You feel like part of the community instead of feeling like an outcast, sitting at home and watching TV all the time,” he said.