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Faces of New Canaan: Melba Neville, Veterans' Advocate

With Veterans Day on Monday, it seemed timely for Patch to take the opportunity to chat with Melba Neville, the new Veterans' Advocate Representative for the town of New Canaan.

Neville's been working in New Canaan's Department of Human Services for 13 years, getting her start as a Senior Outreach Worker. When the town created the new position, she was touted as the immediate and obvious choice to fill the role by First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III during Monday's Veterans Day ceremony at God's Acre.

"In that role as a municipal agent in town, I worked with a lot of seniors," Neville said during a phone interview last week. "I help with referrals, medicaid applications, obtaining veteran's benefits, all kinds of responsibilities. So when this program for veterans was created, [town officials] asked me to fill the role because I was already involved with veterans around town and a number of the programs of which veterans should be aware."

For New Canaan's veterans, Neville will help connect them to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs if they aren't already registered. She keeps an up-to-date registration of veterans in town and has contacts at a local, state and federal level for a number of other veterans assistance programs for which those in New Canaan might qualify.

"We have veterans who come to town from all different economic backgrounds," Neville said. "For all of the veterans around town, their needs will vary. We can arrange for transportation for the elderly, assist with those looking for housing, assist with obtaining food from the food pantry or registering for a food stamps programs. We also provide help to families and spouses of veterans."

Neville said there are often programs of which family of veterans are completely unaware exist to provide them with benefits and assistance as well. She said, as an example, she was able to assist some spouses of deceased veterans obtain fuel heating last winter.

"I can't say I'm an expert in all of the benefits, because there's a lot of material to digest, but I think the intent is to give veterans a single place where they can learn about different programs in their community and a single contact person they can talk to and receive information from and have someone assist them with forms and applications, which there always seems to be," Neville said. "I'm hoping with more public knowledge of my new position, maybe more people will come forward and we'll be able to provide even more help."

Veterans can reach out to Neville at 203-594-3076 or melba.neville@newcanaanct.gov.

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