Veterans North East Outreach Billing Local Communities for Veteran’s Groceries

Nov. 16, 2020

Since being taken over by former North Andover Veterans’ Services Officer (VSO) Ed Mitchell, Veteran’s North East Outreach in Haverhill has come under fire for neglecting and turning away local vets, firing veterans and hiring friends who are not veterans.

Mitchell took over after the passing of VNOC’s founder John Ratka last year when he purged the organization of anyone closely connected to Ratka and instituted new rules to exclude certain veterans from getting services.

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On Monday, local VSO’s in the Merrimack Valley received a letter by Don Cox, president of Massachusetts Military Support Foundation informing them that Veteran’s North East Outreach had been invoicing local municipalities for the food they are distributing to homeless veterans, despite the fact that VNOC receives grants from the organization to pay for that food.

Don Cox, President, MMSF, Letter to VSO’s

“It has come to our attention that you, as a representative of your city or town, may have received an Invoice for foods supplied for your resident-veterans by Veterans Northeast Outreach Center and Massachusetts Military Support Foundation,” the letter says.

“Massachusetts Military Support Foundation did not, nor would it, approve of invoicing cities and towns to help provide foods to its veterans. We do not charge for Vital Meal Kits, USDA Farmer’s to Families Food Boxes, or any foods that we source as an organization. We are supported by philanthropic organizations and individuals.”

The letter followed up explaining that “All programs and services are provided at no cost to veterans and military personnel.”

Methuen Mayor Neil Perry said he was not familiar with the issue but was clear that he is not going pay any bill he receives from Veterans North East Outreach.

“I was not aware of this, but I am going to look into it and we will take appropriate action to address it.”

Perry says he will be meeting with Methuen’s Veteran’s Services Officer Tom Hargraves to address the issue.

Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini said he was familiar with the letters Haverhill has received from VNOC. “My understanding is that this isn’t really a bill but a request for a donation,” he said.

“They made it look like a bill and anyone who looks at it quick, might think it’s  bill but it’s not really a bill.”

Sources at North Andover Town Hall said that VNOC definitely sent them an invoice, one source who asked not to be named said “this is not a request for donations, it’s an invoice no matter what kind of spin they have on it now. I think the bill we got was somewhere in the neighborhood of $18,000.”

“Whether it’s a bill or request for donation it’s not right,” said Air Force veteran and veteran activist John MacDonald of Lowell. “They are getting donations to buy the food and then they are asking other people to pay for it. There’s no excuse for that.”

“VNOC has had a long history of helping veteran’s in dire need of help, when vets go there it’s because they have nowhere else to go. I would hope under this new leadership that VNOC will continue in the vein of John Ratka. Whatever for-profit model they seem to be moving towards – I hope it doesn’t take them away from the primary mission of helping every veteran.”

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is president and publisher of The Valley Patriot Newspaper in North Andover, Massachusetts. He is an author, host of the Paying Attention TV/Radio Program, lectures on media bias and police issues, is a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass. Citizens Alliance, and a 1990 Police Survivor. You can email your comments to

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8 Responses to Veterans North East Outreach Billing Local Communities for Veteran’s Groceries

  1. Amy Caldwell Reply

    November 23, 2020 at 5:01 PM

    This poorly written article is more of a reflection on Tom Duggan, John MacDonald and Jim Fiorentini if any of those individuals truly believe that Edward Mitchell and the VNOC are doing anything negative to affect their community. If any of them had taken the opportunity to speak with Mitchell, who is a veteran himself who has dedicated years of his life to other veterans, they would have known within minutes of conversation that the negativity surrounding his notions are malarkey. Duggan clearly did not do his research and instead took an opportunity to defame a hard working veteran and his program and ran with it to mislead people and I believe an apology is owed to Mitchell and the VNOC.

  2. John McGovern Reply

    November 23, 2020 at 5:24 PM

    I’d be curious to find out if Tom Duggan would be open to speaking about the research he did to fabricate this article. After 18 years in the Navy and serving the towns of North Andover and Boxford for 15 years as veterans’ services director, Edward Mitchell CAME OUT OF RETIREMENT, in order to help and honor his late friend and his veteran outreach program in Haverhill in 2019. I can’t imagine why anyone would think and want to put any negative ideas into the minds of others regarding Mitchell. I think Duggan should speak out and back up his claims because no one in their right mind who knows Mitchell’s work would give the the information in this article the time of day. I’d check your facts before you label yourself a writer and promote misrepresentation of Mitchel and his program.

  3. Donna Koebrick Reply

    November 23, 2020 at 6:08 PM

    I feel sorry for Duggan that with all that is going on in the world right now he chooses to put this negative light on Ed. What is the reason? Also, if he honored Ed as Valley Patriot of the Month in 2006, why is he choosing to slander him now? Odd and unsettling if you ask me.

  4. ANONYMOUS Reply

    November 23, 2020 at 6:18 PM

    I’d be interested to know why Duggan never reached out to the VNEOC for clarification on what happened. I was able to call and find out in a pretty quick phone call. Turns out the VNEOC teacher four to Duggan to try and offer comments themselves. Duggan won’t respond to them. The worst kind of journalism demonstrated right here. Even worse that you are trying to hurt an organization that does so much for our Veterans.

    • ANONYMOUS Reply

      November 23, 2020 at 6:23 PM

      *Turns out the VNEOC reached out to Duggan to try and clarify what happened

  5. John Boyle Reply

    November 23, 2020 at 7:13 PM

    Mitchell is a stand up guy and has the veteran’s best interest at heart. Anyone who talks to Mitchell would know immediately he is a wonderful advocate. Just because Mitchell took over for Ratka, who Duggan seemed to have a personal relationship with, Duggan seems to be out for Mitchell. Does anyone know why?

  6. MJK Reply

    November 23, 2020 at 7:43 PM

    To write a completely one sided article like this without a comment from Ed Mitchell or the VNEOC, and then continuing to ignore their follow up calls does nothing but discredit you as a journalist and the valley patriot as an informational source.Did you ever take a moment as a “patriot” yourself and think what you could use your power as a journalist to do in order to assist the VNEOC to help even more veterans than they already do? Instead you choose to write multiple articles of slander and inconclusive information. You think during this holiday season you would choose to spread light on all the hard work Ed Mitchell has done in his VERY extensive career of serving his country and helping veterans.

  7. LMD Reply

    November 23, 2020 at 8:21 PM

    Good lord, the internet really does let anyone pretend to be a journalist. I pray that Duggan didn’t pay for a journalism degree. If so, he needs to request a refund.

    This article is so odd. Anyone who has met Ed knows how much he cares about veterans and their needs.

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