Former Jay County Veterans Service Officer Roy Leverich, standing, watches over newly hired VSO Cliff Moser at the Veterans Affairs office in Jay County Courthouse as he trains for his new position. Leverich recently retired from the position after 19 years of service. (The Commercial Review/Kelly Lynch)
Former Jay County Veterans Service Officer Roy Leverich, standing, watches over newly hired VSO Cliff Moser at the Veterans Affairs office in Jay County Courthouse as he trains for his new position. Leverich recently retired from the position after 19 years of service. (The Commercial Review/Kelly Lynch)
Two words come to mind when former Jay County Veterans Service Officer Roy Leverich looks back on his 19 years of service to the Veteran Affairs office — interesting and challenging.
He just hopes that he “earned his pay and did a decent job,” even if doing that job wasn’t always easy, having threats made on his life multiple times.
Representing and assisting veterans from World War II to present conflicts in everything from medical care issues to pension to the GI bill, it’s not a simple job, but it’s one he’s enjoyed. His choice to retire recently was made for the benefit of those he served.
“Finally found out what I’m doing so I figured it’s time to leave,” joked Leverich, who added that with new technology and procedures his enthusiasm for the job was waning. “I’m losing my interest in doing it, and it’s only fair that we get somebody else in here that wants to keep up because I don’t think it’s fair to the tax payers if I don’t put my heart and soul into this.”
Leverich, now 76 years old, took the position after serving 24 years in the U.S. Navy, including deployments during the Vietnam War, and almost three years in a foreign navy. Earning the rank of chief petty officer, specializing in aircraft hydraulics and structures, he worked on fighter planes, including F-4 Phantoms.
The VSO position became available when he was deciding what his next step was after being too young to retire but not sure of how to start a new career.
“I needed something to do,” said Leverich. “I got out of the Navy after 27 years, and I was 44 years of age, and I was too young to retire so I thought, ‘Well, why not?’”
Now he’s moving on to lead a retirement of a “quiet, contemplated and somewhat relaxed existence” and leaving his duties in the hands of Cliff Moser, a fellow Navy man.
But he doesn’t plan to stray too far as the job isn’t an easy one to train for or learn in just the span of a few weeks.
“You’ve got to do this job at least two years to know what you’re doing. There’s a lot to it,” said Leverich, who believes Moser was the right choice to take on his former role. “He’s worked with these people, he’s dealt with these problems. … If you’ve spent 20-something years in any branch of the service, you know a little bit about the other branches and you know about the problems they have and what they go through.”
And 63-year-old Moser brings that experience.
Serving more than 21 years in the Navy as an independent duty corpsman, specifically as a senior medical department representative, he’s learned how to take care of and listen to others.
“I like helping people. I like talking to other people. Anyone who knows me will verify that,” said Moser.
“When the position became available, I decided to go for it.”
Being available to the 1,850 veterans living in Jay County and actively serving hundreds of them can be a daunting task, and Moser wants to make sure he can provide all of the needs required of him.
One of his goals is to help educate local veterans on the availability of information and paperwork on the Internet for their entitlements, something he wants to make sure they know they have available to them.
“If I had a greatest fear, my greatest fear would be that I would miss an entitlement,” said Moser. “That’s what they are. A veteran’s benefits are entitlements. They work for them, they earn them.”
And a lot of those entitlements aren’t needed until the veteran is older and wartime effects, such as hearing loss or chemical aftereffects, start showing.
This has led to a system not originally intended to handle continuing operation to be filled by veterans from World War II and Vietnam needing health care benefits and assistance.
“That’s one of the reasons the system gets overwhelmed. That’s why you need somebody like us to point them, to help them along this journey,” said Moser, adding that younger vets are being educated on their discharge about their entitlements whereas older veterans don’t know all that’s available to them.
“It’s important that there’s a veterans service officer to be there to assist the veterans as they go through this journey, whether it’s a medical journey, a pension journey.”
But that’s not to say it’s an easy journey.
With a process plagued by paperwork and requirements that have to be met, Leverich has prepared Moser to explain that nothing is immediate when it comes to what the office can provide.
Leverich has dealt with veterans threatening to kill him over his inability to provide services that the serviceman didn’t qualify for or had to wait to be approved for.
“They seem to think that you can help them immediately without much paperwork. It’s a challenge sometimes to try to get them to know … that there are certain procedures you have to go through,” said Leverich, who sees the few bad incidents as just a part of a job that needs to be done.
“Somebody needs to help those people. We need these offices because otherwise, where does a veteran go?”
Moser is eager to get started on his own and educate himself and others on the procedures that go with the office, and he knows he can rely on Leverich to be there for any questions that may arise in the next few weeks or months.
And Leverich will always be there to help, but for now, he’s looking forward to taking time for himself.
“It kept me busy and just being around the people, kind of leaves a hole in you for a little bit,” said Leverich.
“I guess 19 years here and 27 years in Uncle Sam’s Navy, it’s about time I slowed down.”