Jo Ann Murphy named Veteran Service Officer of the Year

Dukes County Director of Veterans Services Jo Ann Murphy, second from left, received the Veteran Service Officer of the Year Award in a ceremony that also honored, from left, Mary Vezina of Fall River as the Administrator of the Year, and Ryan McLane and Andy Biggio, representatives of the Veterans Services District of the Year (Melrose, Wakefield and Saugus). At right is Secretary of Veterans' Services Coleman Nee. — Photo by Janet Hefler

Jo Ann Murphy, Dukes County’s Director of Veterans Services for 13 years, received the Massachusetts Veteran Service Officer of the Year Award in a ceremony on October 27. Ms. Murphy was selected for the honor from among 202 Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) statewide.

Ms. Murphy described herself as “stunned” by the award in a phone conversation with The Times this week. She said when she was asked to say a few words at the ceremony, “I mentioned I love what I do and love all the guys I help.”

The Veteran Service Officer of the Year Award is presented annually at the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) Annual Training for municipal VSOs, according to department spokesman Matthew McKenna. The four-day training conference was held in Leominster.

Ms. Murphy was selected as this year’s recipient because of her continued dedication, advocacy and commitment to Martha’s Vineyard veterans, Mr. McKenna said in an email to The Times.

The Secretary of Veterans’ Services chooses the awardee based on recommendations submitted to him to by the department’s operations staff. Criteria for nomination include an active caseload, community outreach efforts, and any other work the VSO does to improve the lives of veterans in his or her community.

“Over the years, Jo Ann has been instrumental in bringing increased services to the Island in order for veterans to have easier access to care,” Mr. McKenna said.  ”This past year, because of Jo Ann’s continued advocacy and passion, the Secretary of Veterans’ Services visited the islands in an official capacity for the first time in decades.”

During DVS Secretary Coleman Nee’s visit, he learned of the challenges some veterans face in obtaining health care services, including counseling, Mr. McKenna said.  As a result, Ms. Murphy and Martha’s Vineyard Community Services were able to secure $75,000 in additional state funding to increase counseling services for Island veterans.

“Massachusetts is the national leader in veterans’ services because of the tremendous resources and focus we have at the community level,” Secretary Nee said in a statement emailed to The Times. “The Veteran Service Officer is the front line advocate for our veterans at the local level. Throughout her career Jo Ann has been a tremendous advocate for veterans.

“Her commitment, compassion, and dedication to the veterans and the community of Martha’s Vineyard are second to none and she epitomizes the role of the VSO.”