Our Town - Getting to Know You

Donna Lane
Issue Date: 
December, 2018
Article Body: 

“To care for him who has borne the battle, his widow, and his orphan.”
That is the motto of the Office of Veterans Affairs, and Edmund W. Mulvehill, Jr., its director, takes it very seriously. Following in his family’s tradition of community service, “Teddy,” as he is affectionately called by most people, is totally dedicated to serving the people of Norwood. Having recently celebrated Veterans Day, it seems only fitting that we should end our six-part series with a glimpse of this organization.
When I arrived at Mulvehill’s office, he was working with a Vietnam veteran who had a number of medical issues from his time in the service, not the least of which, sadly, is agent orange. He also needed documentation for a claim for which he had been denied, and he wanted to know how to go about obtaining the purple heart to which he was entitled. He had never considered pursuing it in the past 50-plus years, but his daughter was urging him to do so now.
I didn’t want to eavesdrop, but the office is very small and it was unavoidable. As I watched and listened, I realized just how much this veteran cares, and how much he knows about the many things his fellow veterans need at one time or another that he is able to provide – financial help in an emergency, clothing, advice about education, housing, medical care, providing documentation (e.g., discharge papers, thanks to a large database of service records and access to all forms) and transportation – access, representation and counseling for all VA services. And sometimes it’s just an ear that Vets or their families need.
“We’re a one-stop shop providing veterans’ benefits for the State.,” Mulvehill said.”We provide for any need, as long as they meet eligibility.”
Mulvehill proudly stated that Massachusetts leads the nation in providing benefits to its veterans. And many other states are envious. According to Norwood’s director, every city and town in Massachusetts must have a Veterans’ Service Officer.
“It’s the law,” Mulvehill explained. “Massachusetts General Law 115, passed in 1865 to be exact. He explained that after the Civil War, our lawmakers decided that no veteran should ever have to be on welfare.”
While Mullvehill reports to the Town of Norwood, his ultimate responsibility is to administer the Commonwealth’s program for the Town. He works closely with Francisco Urena, the Secretary of Veterans Services for the Commonwealth, and attends several training conferences a year to stay up to speed on new laws and offerings that affect veterans.
So what drives this man who spends nearly every waking hour helping veterans and their families?
“I’ve always been a veterans’ advocate,” Mulvehill stated.
Mulvehill, a Vietnam vet, was a North Vietnamese interrogator during the Vietnam War.
“Not bad for a guy who got kicked out of French class and told he would never be able to learn a foreign language,” Mulvehill joked, pointing to his certificates from the Defense Language Institute that hang prominently on his wall, one of which notes he was at the top of his class!
What does Mulvehill consider the major issue affecting veterans today?
“While there’s still some work to do with veteran’s healthcare, the major issue I see is that the VA Regional Office that decides the disability ratings has a significant backlog of claims,” Mulvehill said. “It takes them six to eight months to decide on a claim and that’s just not acceptable. People have died waiting for their claims to be approved. They need to do better!”
What kind of training did Ted have for this job?
“You really need to be a Vet to have this job,” Mulvehill said. “All of the Veterans’ Service Officers in the state have served their country. We are the point of contact for anything veterans or their families need from the state or federal government.”
Teddy Mullvehill is a man who does not say no to our veterans. He’s a man who always finds a way to say yes. Our community of veterans and the citizens of Norwood are richer because he works for Our Town.
Donna Lane is a Norwood-based writer, lecturer and designer. You can reach her at [email protected].