Michael Otis, owner of MediaOne Communications, Desert Storm Combat Vet and recipient of the Air Force Commendation Medal, knew that many Veterans didn't understand their eligibility when it came to health care and other important benefits that can help get their lives in order here at home. That's why, working with Public Affairs Officer Gordon Sclar from the Syracuse VA Medical Center, he developed a Veteran's enrollment plan "Help a Vet -- Phone A Thon" that he rolled out right here in Syracuse last March.
"A lot of Veterans don't know they are eligible for heath coverage or what coverage is available to them," Otis said.
Syracuse's VA Medical Center supports a 13-county area in Central New York that is home to more than 126,000 Veterans. In addition to the Medical Center located on the Syracuse University Hill area, there are eight Community Based Outpatient Clinics that treat Veterans in smaller areas throughout CNY.
"Consider this, CNY is home to 55 military units of the National Guard and Reserve, many whom have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the conflicts in the Middle East. There are many Veterans from the Vietnam era, Korean War and the Persian Gulf, as well as World War II. These Veterans are co-workers, neighbors, friends and family. Most of us know a veteran," he said.
Help a Vet -- 'Phone A Thon' campaign
Otis' Syracuse based company, MediaOne Communications, developed a program where the VA partnered with local media to get the word out about enrolling in the VA.
Otis said heading into this event no one was really sure of the potential response. The greater Syracuse market has a population total of just more than 500,000 in its viewing area.
One of the key components of this campaign was the ability to partner with a TV station that has a news presence and then being able in encompass the news organization into the event with interviews from local politicians as well as VA Medical Center staff including the Director.