VETERANS CORNER: Service groups can help

All gave some…some gave all: Flags line all the graves at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, in Augusta. Photo by Kevin Giguere, Central Maine

by Gary Kennedy

It seems some of you are very angry with the VA and how you are received when you try to apply for benefits as well as medical care. Normally, your first step is to approach a service organization for assistance. The service organizations that are readily available are, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), American Legion¸ Maine Veterans Services, Americans with Disa­bilities, Vet­erans of Fo­reign Wars, etc. One of these organizations should be able to talk you through the process.

All of these organizations require that you develop your own case. They will not search for your record. You must be the one to own your situation. You would need to request your military medical records, which you can do or request the Bureau of Veterans Affairs to help you. If you are already connected to the V.A. system and have a primary care provider (PCP), then you will probably have accumulated some medical records at the VA level. If you are already invested with a percentage then BVA has some of your records.

You would go to release of information in Building 200 and ask for a copy of all relevant medical records, labs, and X-rays. By relevant I mean any and all records that would support/benefit your application. These along with any outside records will aid your claim. Then your claim will be processed and any entitlement will be decided. You might be asked to undergo an examination relevant to your request for benefits. If your records are compelling you might not be asked to do that. In any case it is imperative to develop your case initially. Once the ball is rolling your advocate will advise you as to what you will need to do next. Your needs must be proven real and not frivolous.

There are some disabled veterans such as myself who volunteer to guide veterans through the process. We are not paid staff; we just try to offer a hand. I have recently heard many complaints about the process that I have just described beginning with some service organizations, as well as B.V.A.. It seems individuals tend to make it difficult for veterans by using a degrading/condescending attitude; that is how some vets describe it. Also a lot of vets take issue with Veteran’s Affairs (BVA) .

It seems some veterans speak with a veteran’s rep at BVA at length about an issue and when he or she returns to continue their subject matter they aren’t allowed to speak with the person they had originally spoken with. This is not logical. For me, that only seems logical. If a veteran prefers, feels more comfortable with a previous B.V.A representative and is willing to accommodate time constraints for any reason, why shouldn’t it be allowed? Take as they come, in my opinion, is condescending in itself. The veteran wants to feel that everyone is out to help him/her not feel the pressure of numbers or outdated procedures.

Perhaps the new center director will take a serious look at this situation. Even if the veteran isn’t successful in his/her first attempt, there is a kind way to settle that. Our vets have been through a lot; show them they are special, win, lose or draw. The closing with a veteran is very important. I think some training may be in order. God bless.

VETERANS CORNER: Contacting VA for help should not be a negative experience

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

I will try to hit on several of the things that seem to be of interest to our readers regarding veterans and their perceived difficulties with first contacts with the VA System. We receive a lot of phone calls which ask about receiving VA help and the best way to approach that perceived negative.

First off, it should not be approached as a negative but some tell stories of demeaning responses and degrading attitudes of those in an advisory position both administrative and service organizations. Some feel fearful to approach the VA to ask for assistance in areas of both medical and emotional distress. All it takes is one demeaning answer to send someone in need down the road to suffer alone. I have seen this and it is very sad to say the least. When a veteran extends his/her hand for assistance it should be taken and given the assistance that is needed. Actually, that is one of the reasons that person receives a paycheck.

I have always been of the opinion that the employment screening process should be very in depth. Those without sensitivity to our veterans should never be considered for employment no matter “who or what” they know. Have you ever seen a veteran cry? Well, a negative visit by a veteran to the VA leads to one of two things, tears or extreme anger. Both of these responses are tragic and unnecessary. One leads to withdrawal and dangerous depression and the other leads to adrenaline rushes and cause extreme anger and possible violence.

I have been asked on many occasions by other veterans to accompany them to the VA and help with the development of their cases. So, I end up doing a lot of that sort of thing and sometimes become privy to exactly what they fear. However, I am equipped to handle those sort of things to the benefit of the veteran. Usually we successfully handle the situation to the veteran’s benefit.

Another question that is very popular is how does one qualify for outside consultations and treatment? All veterans that receive treatment at the VA due to these service-connected disabilities have the right to ask for an outside consult. This is usually done through your Primary Care Provider (PCP). If your circumstances warrant it, this will be allowed and the charges for this will be forwarded to fee services via VA Community Care. I myself have been referred to outside providers in this manner.

I have been a VA watch dog for many years and have seen many negatives over time, but I must say, Fee Services and the VA Community Health Care teams have never been one of them. Their teams are extremely well versed and solid. They handle millions of dollars in payouts for medical situations every year. They are very compassionate and are there supporting us 24/7. Sometimes things move a little slower than some of us would like, but that the team is, without any doubt, behind us and will never let you down. That is one team in the VA system that is under greater leadership and sees that we vets are protected in the medical theater.

Learn to understand the different departments and what they do and you will know how to approach these areas in a meaningful way.

Next week we will try to approach BVA which is an entirely different department than the one I have discussed today and I know many of you are anxious to know more about that other area that appears to be a stumbling block to a lot of you. God Bless.

VETERANS CORNER: More political appointments not the answer

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

I will apologize to the followers of the veteran’s corner as I have been unable to follow-up on your many responses. I have personally undergone a couple of spinal surgeries which have left me laid up for the past two months. I promise, however, to whittle your comments and opinions down over the upcoming issues. I need to mention, however, if you are sending in articles for print, they must be proper/respectful and limited in length. Those of you who have called, I will handle as needed. Many of you have asked for support on issues which I will give special attention and/or refer to the proper people for appropriate answers/actions.

On January 24 Bayard Bergmann wrote a lengthy article which was difficult to understand in part. He wrote, “Only political appointees can stop the VA scandals.” Well, our column is not out to stop the VA scandals, although we believe there are many. All you have to do is pick up a paper or turn on the news to see that the world is looking at our country as one big soap opera; it’s sad and disgraceful. A country such as ours which has been respected throughout the world is now airing its dirty laundry for all to see. The Putins of the world just sit back and smile, while we drag ourselves through the mud. Although this column is dedicated to helping veterans and their problems, what we are trying to achieve is being lost along the way.

I personally don’t believe that more “Presidential Appointees” is the answer to an already teaming, listing structure which will cave in on the veteran if it is allowed to continue. Already I have heard all over the world, “take a look at yourself.” How can you defend against the implications here? These are hard times in and of themselves without our political appointees making things worse. It should be a given that a new president will in fact make all his strategic appointments: the pre-existing should be eliminated. That is just good common sense.

I don’t see the difference between 38 VA political appointees and 138 political appointees. My opinion on this is, if one person is appointing them it goes right back to a party issue. The president needs to set the tone here; it’s his direction. Most politicians are on the side of our veterans; those that have hidden agendas would be soon found out and eliminated. Veterans’ needs and rights are being given the best attention ever at this time. I happen to be one who is 100 percent permanent and total, and have been so for many years. I have been watching a very good structure appear after many stagnant years. Most of the problems most of us see are at the VA level and need to be brought out into the light of day.

The most urgent needs are of a medical nature, ie: doctors, operating rooms and a better defined B.V.A. (Bureau of Veterans Affairs). I personally believe that President Trump has done a fine job cleaning things up considering the information he has been given to work with. Those who are self-serving have kept things from him and I believe it is up to we veterans to bring the concealed problems to his attention.

Of course, the president needs people who agree with his vision for veterans and their welfare. However, inflated government doesn’t solve the problem. It just turns beef stock into beef stew. It tastes better but isn’t what you were trying to do. Veterans need to find a more direct venue for their problems so the issues are clear and the money can go where it is really needed to be. Tell what you know and make sure it gets to the president’s desk. If you try venting the problems at the local VA level, your information will fall on deaf ears. There are incompetent persons out there getting promoted beyond their capabilities; so, of course, your information will hit a break wall.

The president can’t see everything. He is fighting on many fronts to keep us free and safe; we need to help. I personally agree that the best way to populate the government with meaningful, productive help is by the president’s hand. The hangers on from previous administrations just muddy up the water and nothing gets done. Replacing the old with new is very necessary in order to move forward with the president’s vision. I don’t believe in over populating with presidential appointees. The delegation of authority is very important here, so the president must make his appointments wisely and oversee what he designs.

It’s a difficult task if one watches what is happening today, but it is the way it must be done. Partisan games do not help veterans who come from both sides of the aisle. I think we forget that our men and women in uniform come from all sides of the political spectrum. Color, gender or political affiliation really never comes into the picture when we consider our freedom. Those that serve allow us the right to move about freely and believe in what we wish. We encourage all opinions to be voiced here. God Bless.

Gary Kennedy is a disabled veteran, and accomplished veterans’ advocate. He can be reached at garyek55@gmail.com.

VETERAN’S CORNER: PTSD is common; does not carry a stigma

Left photo, local service organization leaders pose at the veterans memorial in South China. From left to right, Mike Vashon, Jeff Zimmerman and Neil Farrington. (Contritured photo)

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

I have received many replies to recent articles regarding VA and VA benefits. Some inquires relate to the specific disabilities and their compensability. The most common inquiries are related to such problems as hearing loss and what is referred to as ringing in the ears (Tinnitus). These are very common occurrences in the military as well as all soldiers learning to use weapons of one sort or another, or work around loud noises such as jobs requiring being near aircraft and testing areas.

The other possible disabling condition that I hear a lot about either from the veteran or someone who is close to him/her, is PTSD. This sort of disorder is usually associated with being in close proximity to conflict. Some veterans don’t want to address this disorder as they feel it carries with it a negative connotation. For those who feel this way I would suggest it is not necessary to use that term because nervous disorder carries the same degree of compensable ability as PTSD does. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, today is more apt to be associated with combat stressors; where as plain nervous disorder could apply to many traumatic issues other than ones relating to combat.

Both are given the same degree of award and compensation. Neither should carry a stigma with them. They are both human responses to different kinds of stress. There are several very good service organizations located at Togus VA. Also, if you have had a bad experience then you can discuss it with a totally impartial veterans advocate located in building 200 at Togus VA Medical Center. If this doesn’t work for you take it directly to Veteran’s Affairs in building 248 on the second floor.

There are some very knowledgeable people there that can help you find your way and show you how to put your case together. The records that you already have should accompany you. It is always wise to have your case together when you go there. If you don’t have a primary care provider then you need to apply for one. When you have acquired a PCP then you will explain all the things that are bothering you and he/she will refer you to the appropriate department for an examination. When this is done you will have what you need to file a case with the Bureau of Veterans Affairs (BVA).

I should add if you have seen doctors outside of the VA system you should get copies of those documents. Then you are ready to go and file a well-grounded claim. These are only a couple of issue we have heard you speak about and we are aware there are many more. Veterans have given us so much and all of us who can contribute to their well-being should do so in any way possible. If you have any questions please feel free to share them with us here at The Town Line email address, townline@fairpoint.net. If it’s a personal nature you can speak with Gary at 458-2832. One way or the other we will give you the answers.

If you have an article you would like to have published, please feel free to send it to The Town Line for review. All writing must be proper in content. I would like to wish all a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. God Bless us all.

NEWS FROM THE VA: Because of your input, changes coming at VA

All gave some…some gave all: Flags line all the graves at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, in Augusta. (photo by Kevin Giguere, Central Maine)

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

For all of you who follow our veteran related articles and respond, we thank you for your great response and will answer your comments and concern in the order received.

* There are many issues both positive and negative that affect our veterans. We look forward to your input and we will try to find favorable solutions and information for all that participates.

* I am happy to report that because of our input with VA Togus, the release of information section has reopened. Your response and our action were pivotal in getting the job done. It looked like the new director was getting off on the wrong foot, but perhaps we need to reassess our previous opinion. Now the Veteran Service Organizations (VSO’s) will be able to once again move rapidly with veterans issues by being able to collect Veteran medical information in an expeditious manner.

* Another positive will take affect nationally and that is the cost of living adjustment (COLA) which is evaluated each year along side of the Social Security (COLA). These are usually the same if given at all. This past October 9, 2018, President Donald Trump endorsed Public Law 115-258 which provides an increase in VA benefits by 2.8 percent. This takes affect this December 1 and will be seen in the January 1 check. Also the dependent and indemnity compensation (DIC) for veteran’s survivors will receive the same. This is suppose to protect against inflation.

*Also we have talked about National Guard in the past and it is felt by some of us that they have been given an unfair shake. When you look at a National Guard training record you will see orders for basic training which entails 88 days of active duty. It has gone without question it seems by Service Organizations. This period is two days short of VA medical benefits which requires 90 days. Can you see the pattern here? I certainly can and have taken action by doing a test case to bring it out in the open.

When I served in the Army I was in the regulars and served 90 days in basic plus. So, I would be qualified to be reviewed for medical benefits. In my opinion this is a government way of having their cake and eating it as well. This is a terribly unfair practice by the powers that be.

The guard was originally meant to be a “State Militia and was eventually taken over by the federal government. Some of the guard has been activated to go and fight on foreign soil. Those guardsmen have been compensated. The others were standing by; yet they are not qualified for VA benefits because of two days. We are hoping to change that. We will have some answers in the near future and if we are successful thousands of National Guardsman can come forward. Wish us luck and let us know what you think.

Also, I will mention something in closing that most of you don’t know and that is; some veterans have been plagued with infertility. In vitro fertilization is now a possibility if you qualify. I know that is very important to some of us. Talk to your primary care provider.

Take care fellow veterans and keep the faith. There are people out there that are fighting for you. Thank you for your service and God be with you. Yours in Service.

VETERANS CORNER: Need help? Don’t go it alone

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy
Veterans advocate

Good day my fellow veterans. I am so pleased we have taken this first step in personally solving our own problems with the government and the VA systems. Hopefully we have initiated change. I am in hopes that our interplay with Senator Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree will bear fruit. When Sen. Olympia Snow was in office, it was an office of action. I miss her very much; there was no bull when you talked to her or John Cummings. I entered her office on many occasions because I needed to or because she needed me to; there was action in any case.

The article I wrote two weeks ago has received a tremendous response, such that I have hired Kismet Computer Service, of Route 17, to set up a private website so that veterans can vent their problems and feel safe in doing so.

Just recently I was approached by a veteran who wanted to speak to me at VA but insisted upon speaking in a private place. I have known this 100 percent disabled American veteran for some time now. He expressed to me his need to approach VA for additional help regarding a matter not in his records. I told him he had the right to ask for the help even if he wasn’t 100 percent disabled. He replied, “I have been told that if I asked for that they could re-evaluate my pension and I might lose some.” I replied, “that is absolutely ridiculous, you served your country and you shouldn’t feel fearful of what you have because you are asking for additional help. That is absolutely absurd.” Long story short, I offered to meet with him and go to VA services with him so that he would feel safe. It breaks my heart that some vets feel that way and that someone of the VA would instill that thought in his mind. What are service organizations and the VA thinking when they cause this kind of stress to our veterans? In my opinion those kind of intellects don’t belong at the VA and we need to dig them out and get rid of them. Together we can do that.

The initiation of fear, false statements and prejudice that existed with the Lilly administration will only come back to bite you. There are people from many different social habits working in the VA system. If some of you don’t realize it, some of your testing and x-ray opinions are farmed out to California. Look at the signature and you will see Japanese, Chinese and even Middle Eastern names. Prejudice is the #1 conflict between veterans and the VA system. Smiling should be one of the lessons taught at training sessions. Yes, some vets are trying hard to deal with but some departments like 3 North know exactly how to defuse negativity in vets. I don’t know who trained them but they stand out in a crowd and in my eyes are very special. I will speak more on that later.

Veterans are in pain and harbor many memories of lost opportunity and life. I would suggest those of you who harbor such feelings should read the books and letters written by Dr. Jose Rizal a Southeast Asia optometrist, who was brilliant, speaking many languages, doing eye surgery and fighting an inner conflict where his countrymen were considered totally primitive and nowhere equal to the mother country of the time, Spain, who held possession of the islands for 300 years. His correspondence with Mr. Blumentritt, an Austrian, helped in the creation of the only government validated service to mankind organization in the world. If you like to research great people and events then this is one of the greatest ever. He died at the age of 35 by a Spanish firing squad. He gave his life willingly and even let the Spanish shoot him in the back; bad mistake for Spain! He became a martyr and national hero of the Philippines. He just wanted all to be solved with literacy in a peaceful way, without prejudice. They have organizations in many countries of the world today, even the U.S.A. He just wanted freedom acceptance and equality in the world. I myself was knighted 16 years ago and this year was promoted to Commander of KOR.

My heart is always for the poor, sick, elderly, and children and, of course, our veterans. Doing these demeaning things to our veterans is like, if not worse, to elder abuse. If you haven’t served, maybe you should visit the thousands of graves here in Maine and read the epitaphs on the stones. We have a great site at Togus you might not be aware of where Buffalo Soldiers are buried, very historical. The Winthrop Library has a good deal of information on Togus.

I myself was a patient at the VA a week or so ago and was so pleased with the core, respect and service that was given to me by the doctors, nurses, aids and even the janitorial staff of 3 North. I was very sick and they brought me back to my feet. There are a lot of good people at VA, but unfortunately, the bad ones as always are on top making bad, self-serving decisions. It has to stop. I shared all of this with the VA’s Patient Advocate Angela McKenny, LCSW. She has heard most of this before and does what she can do when veterans ask for her help. Thank you Angela.

I would be remiss in my reporting if I didn’t mention my experience with the Emergency Department. They ran every test imaginable to find my problem. I went to Urology but it was after 3 p.m., and there was only one doctor. Although I was in agony there was no help for me. The Emergency room was the only pathway. I was dehydrating so they hooked me up to an IV with antibiotics and did so many labs, my arms still ache. I went home that night with my wife and suffered through the night. The next day I received a call from emergency telling me I had to come back into VA. I was admitted and sent to 3 North and I.V’d with powerful antibiotics. So let’s be fair, there are some wonderful people working there with nerves of steel as some vets can be testy. “ Thank you 3 North from Julie and I.”

Last but not least, by far, I want to thank Glenn McDonald for his article of support of the October 18 issue of The Town Line. He was on the money and as adamant in regards to helping and safeguarding veterans as I am. Now we would like to hear from more of you. Perhaps we can be of help. If you can’t write your own response, just give Glenn or me a call. We would be more than happy to assist with your writing and/or your problem, no matter what.

The website should be up and running in a week. It will be a place where we can discuss any issue regarding VA and/or your needs for service. It will be personal and private if you wish or we can share with other readers, if you so choose. Glenn and I are both seasoned writers and researchers. Don’t go it alone. We will keep you informed.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Kennedy’s observations spot-on correct

by Glenn McDonald
Combat disabled Vietnam vet

I wish to commend The Town Line newspaper for performing a public service in publishing the excellent Community Commentary by my “brother veteran” Gary Kennedy in the October 11, 2018 edition.

He is a highly-respected veterans’ advocate and I can confirm that everything Gary said about Ryan Lilly and the new (hopefully temporary) director at VA Togus is spot-on correct and the absolute truth.

There are more than a few of us – I am a 100 percent combat disabled Vietnam vet – who have legitimate long-standing complaints about the very well-paid V.A. Togus “leadership.” But because of the way the “system” works there, some of us have felt helpless and hopeless that we can successfully expose what has been going on. No longer. United we stand, divided we fall.

Like Mr. Kennedy, I wish to hear from any veterans out there that have had less than satisfactory treatment from Lilly and his fellow bureaucrats at the top of the V.A. health care system. After the election, and come the first of next year, I will be in a much stronger position to make a positive contribution to preserving veterans’ rights.

I served in the military over a span of 33 years (1966 – 1969 in Vietnam) at first, as a very young NCO, Army combat correspondent, and later, company-grade and field-grade officer in the Regular Army, Army National Guard and finally, Army Reserve. I’m a life member of the DAV, American Legion and VFW. Please e-mail me at: mcc.majormac@gmail.com. Thank you.

Community Commentary is a forum The Town Line makes available for citizens to express their opinions on subjects of interest to our readers. The Town Line welcomes, and encourages, supportive comments, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive, and informative. Submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: If you have VA questions, I will find the answers

Veterans Day parade in Waterville 2016

by Gary Kennedy
Veterans’ Advocate

I have been a contributor of The Town Line news for a number of years now. I am a 100 percent service connect American veteran and have been aiding veterans in the development of difficult cases by all service organizations standards. I have seen VA refusals many times because of cases that couldn’t/ wouldn’t be developed, too time consuming or very difficult to prove. Most things can be proven if not frivolous. Your records were lost in a fire was the popular excuse. Some were in fact destroyed by fire but many were preserved and protected. Anyway, I am writing this to give my opinion based mostly on hearsay. However, when there is a lot of hum there is usually a hive. Lately the Veterans Administration has undergone a lot of trauma. I would like to share a little of that in hopes for feedback.

Veterans’ need media to vent their feeling and concerns. I can assure you this veteran will search for the answers for you. Whether you agree or not you will receive an answer. For those of you who aren’t aware, the Togus Pharmacy will be partially down from October 22, 2018, for approximately nine days because of a flood. Also another of my pet peeves is the fact that orthopedics is hurting for doctors and they have nowhere enough service rooms for the vets in need. The executive director Ryan Lilly could have prioritized the expansion of the medical side but elected to do almost nothing. Now there is a new director who has started off on the wrong foot; so I don’t see longevity there.

However, the VA, in its infinite wisdom, elected to promote Mr. Lilly to the head of the region and demote Kurt Johnson, the assistant director, to a paper pusher. He use to be the head of pharmacy but his friendship with Mr. Lilly somehow got him promoted to assistant director. It is fairly well known they are/were close friends.

There is a federal case involving prejudice involving Mr. Lilly and Mr. Johnson. The power-that-be overlooked the situation or have no knowledge of it; which means they didn’t do their homework. It was sad for me to see Senator Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree joining forces at the new homeless housing complex developed on federal land. I am a veteran and support veterans with unfortunate circumstances but I don’t believe housing should be built on the 500 acres at Togus. It should be done but, in my opinion, is in the wrong place. That is a medical facility which could develop into the greatest in our country. I have said that many times. Lilly made the statement and believes that he had more land there but wasn’t sure what he would do with it. Some of that land is wetland and the habitat for various many wildlife and fish.

Last but not least, the director that replaces the promoted Lilly has just closed down the Veterans Record Retrieval window placing a state of mayhem there with a considerable workload shift on those employees. New people to the records who do other things will try to pick up the slack. The more they squeeze to make themselves look good to Washington, the more they eat on veteran services. They spend their money on bad who knows what; but it isn’t something you can see. They are building a small new building directly across from emergency to further congest and demean the beauty of the Togus facility. With 500 acres you can do better than that.

Many of us are getting “farmed out” now because they don’t have time for us or they don’t have the proper room, tools, ability and doctors. Thanking a vet is not enough. You need to learn respect, responsibility and remember why you don’t speak Korean, Japanese, German or Russian. We are the land of the free, home of the brave and no matter how bad we hurt we were there for you. The oversight of VA and how it evolves for the vet is the first priority. There is much more but this is enough for now. You can call me at 458-2832 and I will try to assist in anyway I can. We can keep our affairs alive through media.

Community Commentary is a forum The Town Line makes available for citizens to express their opinions on subjects of interest to our readers. The Town Line welcomes, and encourages, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive and informative. Submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

NEWS FROM THE VA, Week of July 27, 2017

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

This is the era of the realization of the value of the commitment of our men and women in uniform and those who have retired their uniforms. There has been no more advantageous time in our history to seek benefit befitting the sacrifices that our defenders have given. “Thank you for your service” is heard by so many veterans today but only recently has this been equated to an actual, tangible benefit in the lives of those who have been willing to sacrifice all so that we remain Americans and enjoy the freedom that so many countries around the world don’t enjoy.

An example that I am familiar with is our “Blue Water Navy,” which were navy ships anchored or patrolling off the shores of Vietnam while defoliates (Agent Orange) were being sprayed over the country side to kill the vegetation so the enemy would be exposed. For approximately 40 years the government denied any relationship between these chemicals and the diseases that our military succumbed to. Our government took the stand that the chemical only involved the soldier that had “boots on the ground.” Now because of great advocacy by our veteran advocates and political leaders such as Senator Olympia Snowe and current Senator Susan Collins most of these issues are being treated as service connected and compensated.

All states have great advocacy groups such as Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Bureau of Veterans Affairs. Also there are some independent advocates that work behind the scenes. Here in Maine our advocates are located, for the most part, at the Veteran’s Administration, Togus, Maine. Their phone number is 207-623-8411 if you would like to contact someone.

I would be remiss in my reporting if I didn’t mention the #1 affliction to especially combat veterans, although there are other military personnel that have this problem for other reasons, P.T.S.D.. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). For many years this was the most difficult problem for which to receive help. However, recently there has been a push to take a closer look. This new attitude has resulted in many previous denials to now be acknowledged as accepted and those thousands of veterans who once were lost are now found and are receiving the help they need. So, if you are one that was denied in past years it might be advantageous to visit your VA center once again.

There are so many things that have changed in the VA system that benefits our veterans. It is well worth the time to visit the VA and speak with a veteran’s advocate or service officer. They have a wealth of knowledge and can steer you in the right direction. I have written/developed cases for more than 35 years and can assure you that things are very user friendly these days.

This is the time of year that we salute our men and women in uniform and pay our respects to those who have given their all. It’s a time to think about all the dreams and aspirations that have been ripped away, never to be realized. Just think about it for a moment. Perhaps one of your friends, family or ancestors made the supreme sacrifice. What would they have achieved had they lived? We’ll never know but we have so much opportunity because of their sacrifice.

I have traveled this world and have seen so many people who have looked at me with longing. It’s not because I am great to look at, it’s that I am an American and they can see the freedom in my face, what I am allowed to do and where I am allowed to go. Most observers in the third world can only dream of having that kind of freedom. I have learned that my being an American is precious and worth any price that I have ever had to pay. It’s a fact that some take freedom for granted every day; that is just the way it is. However, when you pass a veterans cemetery, you will start to realize that your freedom isn’t really free at all. Someone paid a very big price for that. Take care and God Bless America.