PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, OCT. 25, 2012) — This summer, THE PLANET published information questioning the competency of the city of Pittsfield’s veterans’ affairs agent, Rosanne Frieri (see PLANET, June 12 and June 14, archives). The columns drew a lot of attention, since Frieri is politically connected. When someone politically connected sneezes, lots of other people catch cold.

FRIERI: Pittsfield’s Veterans Affairs agent under fire in new accusations.

Over the years, Frieri has burrowed her way into city government with an ease that one might expect for a trifecta minority (female, lesbian, veteran) in an excessively liberal state. She’s so good at the game that she’s convinced two successive mayors, Jimmy Ruberto and Dan Bianchi, that she’s OK, an asset rather than a liability.

Is she, however, merely a demographic asset, or does she do the job for Berkshire County veterans? THE PLANET expects, though we are not sure, that being able to check politically correct demographic boxes comes in handy when reporting to the state and federal governments for various purposes, including funding.

Those who criticized our criticism of Frieri did so largely along the lines of: “You’re taking pot shots based on anonymous critics. Give us an example.” Well, we weren’t taking pot shot. Rather, we were reporting on where the evidence took us. This included testimony of veterans who applied to Frieri’s office for help.

Specifics: The Case of Ed Shepardson

To those who wanted specifics, we have such a case, which can be used as a specific illustration to demonstrate the general assertion. We contacted Frieri’s office asking for her comments to this story, but she did not respond.

THE PLANET has uncovered a case of what looks like profound disservice to a six-year veteran who served his country and, many years later, asked if he might qualify for benefits. We investigated, uncovered the relevant documents, and submit them to you with the victim’s consent. He has allowed us to post his real name. We leave it to readers to judge if the Pittsfield Veteran’s Affairs officer provided good service.

Keep in mind that Frieri’s job as veteran’s affairs agent, for which she receives$47,700 plus benefits, is to serve veterans. She must be willing and able to fight like a banshee to help needy vets negotiate the mazes of state and federal bureaucracies. She must not take no for an answer, unless there’s a damn good reason for doing so. She must pursue cases with dogged determination.

Ask yourself: She Frieri do this in the case of Ed Shepardson?

To begin with, veterans’ services and benefits in the city of Pittsfield constitute a selective program based on four principal conditions:

1. Military service, active duty of at least 180 days or 90 days if the service comes in war time.

2. Honorable discharge or separation under honorable conditions.

3. Legal residence in the city of Pittsfield.

4. Financial need.

Back and Forth, Back and Forth

Pittsfield resident Ed Shepardson joined the U.S. Army Reserve ion 1970. He served six months, taking combat infantry training at Ft. Polk, La. followed by a reserve commitment of five and a half years. That commitment consisted of service one weekend a month and two weeks each summer.

On May 24, 2012, he wrote the following message to Frieri:

“I served in the US Army Reserve from 1970 until 1973 and then in the Vermont National Guard until 1976. Basic at Fort Campbell, AIT at Fort Polk. Honorably discharged. I’m now 62. Are there any benefits available to me or how can I find out?”

Frieri replied:

‘if you have an honorable discharge you should be able to enroll in the VA health care system.”

On June 1, Shepardson phone Frieri to obtain more information. He left a voicemail requesting a return phone call. Shepardson says that call was never returned. On June 14 at 10:30 a.m., he sent an e-mail to Frieri, once again describing his military service:

“I participated in the online chat you had a few weeks ago and I need help in determining the benefits available to me. Please advise. I also need advice on how to get a copy of my discharge papers. Thanks.” Shepardson then repeated the summation of his military service he initially sent on June 1.

That same day, at 1:04 p.m., Frieri wrote back:

Hello Ed, Nice to hear from you … We should be able to provide you with your discharge. Do you live in Pittsfield?”

Shepardson says that despite Frieri’s claim of providing discharge papers, she was unable to do so. He says he obtained them by writing to the National Personnel Records Center: “I received two, and only two, documents. The first, D-214, was my release from active duty. [The second was my] transfer to the United States Army Reserve. … The second document, NGB Form 22, clearly describes my final discharge at HONORABLE and the length of total services as 6 YEARS- 0 MONTHS-0 DAYS.”

… unless you’re talking about Pittsfield.

Shepardson made an appointment to see Frieri. That meeting took place at 9 a.m., July 17. Shepardson says he presented Frieri with the two forms. He says she told him to return on July 23 and bring with him a birth certificate, an income statement, as well as mortgage and tax information.

Shepardson did as directed, and on July 23, he says Frieri told him “that I would receive a monthly stipend to supplement my Social Security. That stipend would increase after three months. [She told me] I would also be eligible for VA medical and was given enrollment forms.” Shepardson says he returned the completed forms to Frieri on July 24, 2012.

Fly Enters the Ointment, and It Wasn’t David Hedison

On Aug. 8, Shepardson says, Frieri called him to tell him his case had been rejected. He asked why. Frieri said she did know, but she said she would resubmit the papers. On Aug. 13, Shepardson received a letter from the VA in Leeds, Mass, requesting his discharge papers. On Aug. 21, he sent the following e-mail message to Frieri, at 8:29 a.m.:

“Haven’t heard from you in a couple of weeks. Where do we stand? Last I heard from you was that I was refused because I did not serve in wartime, and I did.”

Later that same day, Frieri responded tersely, with four words: “Please bring in proof.”

Once again, Shepardson says he hand-delivered his two forms (D-214 and NGB 22) to Frieri. “Both forms show clearly that my service occurred from 1970 to 1976. The Vietnam War began in 1959 and ended in 1975,” Shepardson said, adding that he followed up the hand delivery with this e-mail, sent to Frieri Aug. 22, at 7:11 a.m.:

“Were the papers I dropped off yesterday proof enough or do I need to send for more documentation?”

Frieri replied: “I haven’t looked at them today, will forward them to my authorizer ASAP.” 

Shepardson kept his powder dry, like a good soldier. He heard nothing for the next five days, so he sent another e-mail to Frieri (Aug. 27):

Have you been able to ascertain if the documents that I dropped off to you last week are sufficient proof that I served during a war? Getting a little anxious.”

Frier replied: “Just waiting for a confirmation from Boston.”

If that was the case, why didn’t Frieri keep in touch with Shepardson? Why not routine updates, just as a common courtesy, as professionals do?

On Sept. 7, after another 11 days of silence, Frieri sent Shepardson this e-mail: “Can you resend the DD214s that show the active duty please? Thanks.”

Once again, Shepardson sent Frieri a copy of the form, scanning it and including it in an e-mail. Three days later, on Sept. 10, Frieri sent this e-mail to Shepardson: “Call me.”

Shepardson says he called immediately. He says Frieri told him he was not eligible for benefits because his active-duty service “was for training only.” Shepardson says, “She was rude and combative, and claimed that I had misled her about the nature of [my] service. I countered that every piece of information that I had given her clearly stated my exact military service. She then asked me to send her proof that I had served six years in total. I immediately e-mailed her the NGB Form 22 again, which states that I served six years, zero months, and zero days.”

Frieri took another three days before responding by e-mail on Sept. 13:
“Ed, this is the response from my authorizer: ‘No, this is a NGB-22, Discharge from National guard. This states how much reserve and National Guard time he had.'” 

Shepardson responded: “I’m confused. You asked me for something that showed my total service. Live 27 does that (6 years). Line 25 shows my length of service in the USAR. Sorry to be such a dope, but what am I missing or what else do I need to provide?”

Frieri did not respond.

Let’s repeat that: Frieri did not respond.

On Sept. 20, 2012, an exasperated Ed Shepardson sent this e-mail to Frieri:

“I need a definite answer, one way of the other, if I am entitled to any benefits. If I’m not, i’ll need to scramble. PLEASE let me know. Thank you.”

Shepardson received this two-word reply:

“Not entitled.”

On Sept. 21, Shepardson answered: “I’m curious as to the reason.”

Frieri never replied, Shepardson says. With that, apparently, the veteran’s agent slammed the door shut on a man in need of assistance.

THE PLANET checked Shepardson’s records. Indeed, his discharge papers, line 27, has an entry for “TOTAL SERVICE FOR PAY PURPOSES — YEARS 6, MONTHS 0, DAYS 0.”

THE PLANET is not an expert in veteran’s benefits or how they are computed. On the surface of it, though, it would appear that a man who served his country for six years should be entitled to some help. From this exchange, it does not appear as if Frieri went pedal-to-the-metal for Ed Shepardson.

Even, for the sake of argument and assuming he does qualify, our question becomes this: Should anyone, let alone a veteran, have to put up with such rude, disrespectful service? Should an officer of the city who treats her constituents this way be retained in her position? It’s one thing to talk about customer service and transparency, but unless the corner office begins to act in cases like this, all we have is a load of hot air.








  1. Still wondering
    October 25, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    Dan, I am a veteran with both lengthy active and reserve service. Under the rules as I understand them, the rejection this man received is consistent with the law. He was active duty for training and then after graduating from training he went into the reserves. This category of veteran is not eligible for many of the more generous veterans benefits. I’m sorry but this is the way it is. Prehaps she could have been more gentle in some of her emails but we don’t know what was said in person. This case as presented is not a good example of her job performance.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    Trifecta minority! Excellent!
    Hope you don’t mind if I use that one.

  3. GMHeller
    October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Mr. Valenti,
    Rosanne Frieri illustrates all too well the mindset of too many bureaucrats in Massachusetts who take their positions for granted and could give two hoots about the taxpayer and the people under their charge.
    If she’s an appointee, she should be de-appointed ASAP.
    Let her try that crap working in the private sector.

    • Spectator
      October 26, 2012 at 8:27 am #

      In the private sector, her replies are exactly how I learned to respond to confrontation in my MBA classes. And in her defense, $47k a year(plus bennies that MA considers taxable accrued income in many cases) is not that much money(under $700 a week after withholding) for a professional to have to deal with personalities who can often be very reactionary, and sometimes hostile.

  4. Wilson
    October 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Really I don’t see much wrong with her response. Better to get to the point than to feign friendliness, and obviously she considered the matter settled, which Shepardson didn’t seem to want to accept. It’s hard to see what the point of her job is though, since the “authorizer” seems to be the only one doing anything productive.

  5. Ron Kitterman
    October 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    I agree with Still Wondering’s understanding of the benefits, This should have been something Ms Frieri could have provided in 10 seconds looking at Ed Shepardson’s DD214. Not saying she should have sugar coated it but this can’t be the first time that subject came up. So why the run around ?

  6. Jonathan Melle
    October 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    I receive Veteran’s benefits. Larry Caprari helped me for a number of years until Mayor Jimmy Ruberto forced him out and put Rosanne Frieri in the position. I am very fortunate to have received Larry Caprari’s representation. He is a good man, unlike Jimmy Ruberto. I served my country in the Army and received an Honorable Discharge. I am a disabled Veteran.

  7. Jonathan Melle
    October 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Jack Downing is not a Veteran, but he receives a 6-figure salary running a “non-profit” Veterans organization that helps at-risk homeless Veterans. Jack Downing gives tens of thousands of dollars a year to GE lobbyist Peter J. Larkin out of the “non-profit” Veterans organization. I dislike Jack Downing because he is a phony.

  8. Jim Gleason
    October 25, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    According to all the vet’s I’ve talked to Rosanne Frieri does a great job with limited resources. just because Bill Sturgeon, Mike Case, john Harding and a few more disgruntled people want her out and have a puppet to put in her place doesn’t mean she’s doing a bad job.

  9. Scott
    October 25, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    You can’t please everyone. Dan don’t you think it’s a little distasteful to pretty much call her a bulldike in many more words? Plus as heller pointed out she works for the gov’t at the expense of the public she don’t have to answer to us. (that’s their attitude anyways.)

    October 25, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    Dan Im a little confused here. You down this woman on just what Mr. Shepardson told you. Did you ever get her side of this story. Do you know Mr. Shepardson and how he acted towards her.Maybe I missed something here but if you never got her story I don’t think its fair that you put this out one sided. Just my opinion.

    • danvalenti
      October 29, 2012 at 9:31 am #

      We contacted her with an invitation to share her side of the story. She never returned our call.

  11. Elizabeth
    October 26, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    Jimmy Gleason….just so you know, John Harding works tirelessly for the vets and for you to say he (and others) are disgruntled people is way out of line. You have no idea, obviously, what these vets are going through day in and day out. Someone in frieri’s position should have a little more common sense and show some compassion….all this vet was asking was weather he was eligible for veterans benefits or not. Pretty simple. She didn’t need to be rude and condescending. It’s clear from the lapses of time in the emails that she couldn’t care less about this guy. To all vets who served this country for our freedom, I salute you and thank you.

    • Ed Shepardson
      October 26, 2012 at 8:38 am #

      You may be the only one who got the point. Thank you. And there have been many Pittsfield veterans who have gone to other agents in other cities and towns because they couldn’t get help here.

      • Still wondering
        October 26, 2012 at 9:07 am #

        What Ed says is true. And I know that some vets who do it all themselves and don’t involve Ms. Frieri at all.

  12. Elizabeth
    October 26, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    Jimmy Gleason….just so you know, John Harding works tirelessly for the vets and for you to say he (and others) are disgruntled people is way out of line. You have no idea, obviously, what these vets are going through day in and day out. Someone in frieri’s position should have a little more common sense and show some compassion….all this vet was asking was weather he was eligible for veterans benefits or not. Pretty simple. She didn’t need to be rude and condescending. It’s clear from the lapses of time in the emails that she couldn’t care less about this guy. To all vets who served this country for our freedom, I salute you and thank you.

  13. Shakes His Head
    October 26, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    I really don’t think Ms. Frieri’s personal life should be discussed with her work performance.

    October 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Speaking of veterans Im disgusted with this Obama administration handling and lies of the killing of 4 American including the Ambassador in Benghazi. Three pleas for military back-up all denied. Are you kidding me!!!!!! I watched as ex military people talked about how this goes right to the White House. All on 9-11 This is so unbelievable

  15. tito
    October 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    ALERT. THIS WEEKS WINNER OF THE KING OF THE SWAMP’AWARD, goes to.. Christine Yon, for her stance on contract gate, it would have been easy to take the low road,but she voted against it. Congratulations Chris!

    • Dave
      October 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

      She probably thought she did enough damage to public employees for one meeting. The no votes, in my opinion were all political knowing by the debate that it would be approved. Council President Sherman was in a perfect place for his no vote, and it will be a political point to make come next November when he runs for Mayor.

  16. Jim Gleason
    October 27, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    Yon will do damage until she’s replaced, hopefully in 2013. Maybe a pine tree stump from Springside Park will run against her, it would be much smarter and easier to listen to.

    • Vin
      October 27, 2012 at 11:10 am #

      Jim, you talk a big a game. Since you seem to have all the answers, why don’t you get involved and make a run?

      • Jim Gleason
        October 27, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

        Vin, why don’t you use your last name so I can know who I’m addressing?

  17. Sonny
    October 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Jimmy boy, why can’t you just address him as Vin?

  18. Sonny
    October 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Jimmy boy, why can’t you just address him as Vin?

  19. Sonny
    October 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Jimmy boy, why can’t you just address him as Vin?

    October 28, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Everyone stay safe next few days!!!!!

  21. tito
    October 28, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    football jets take cover, from the fans.

  22. Payroll Patriot
    October 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm #


    From the national weather service: Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

    from the governor’s press conference today: ALL schools will be closed and the twenty people behind me have nothing to do except take your tax money, while I activate the National Guard which will actually do something.

    Timmy B and the PFD will be at a grocery store near you to do their grocery shopping with a $450k fire truck. Your tax dollars at work.

    Pittfield school dept provides free labor to build house for school employee. Timmy’s son learns lesson that what is not ethical will be rewarded in Pittsfield.

    Actually, I will be going south with the geese as the Obama fuel prices will not allow me to take a plane.

  23. Ron Kitterman
    October 29, 2012 at 4:47 am #

    It’s pretty hard to dismiss anyone in public service other than our elected representatives. The progressives are winning the game big time. The days of firing someone for smoking or being rude may fly in the Donald Trump sector but not the public sector side.

  24. Scott
    October 29, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Speaking of corruption I finally was able to watch “Freeing Bernard Baran” The evidence to suggest his innocence is staggering as well as the evidence to support the facts that ADA Ford went after Baran and used suggestive questioning tactics to get the children to comply during testimony. I always believed he was guilty but I’m not so sure anymore… Anyone interested can watch the film for $2.99 or purchase it for $10.00.

  25. Piedmontese 1228 East
    October 30, 2012 at 12:33 am #

    What has happened to handling people with a gentle touch even if the answer that they will be given is not one they want to hear. Without seeming preachy i can only think that Larry and Ted would be offended at how this was addressed. We are in difficult times and it seems this Veteran should at the very least been spoken to with respect regarding his request.