Since we last communicated V.A. at Togus, Maine, was in the middle of rebuilding some roads and sorely needed sidewalks. Recently they have, for the most part completed that segment of their construction plan. There are currently two buildings under construction, one of which will be an interior extension of building 200. Building 200 is the main medical entrance to specialty medical areas, emergency, operating rooms, dental, x-ray and medical supplies etc. The new formation of the Veterans Advocacy department as well as the pharmacy is located there on the first floor. Most advocates have been replaced.
The new security area that I spoke about is located in front of building 200. The other secured entrance is where the doctors’ offices and some business areas, such as Veterans Benefits Administration are located. This is important information as many of you are very upset with the new security protocols. I have only been here at the Togus facility for 47 years but I believe the VA facility was built somewhere near 1866. What’s strange to many of we veterans are in all the years we have been using this facility we were never denied access. Most of the time we use the VA for medical purposes of one sort or another and in other cases our visit to the V.A. was just to go to the store or have a meal with friends in the canteen.
Also, a few of us used the gym and some the pool. Covid has been an excuse to shut down these areas for the past couple of years. This is very sad as it has always been a place for veterans to do physical therapy with a P.T. associate or a caregiver.
The administrative rumor has been that the real reason was the lack of a life guard as the administration only wanted to use one part time. It has caused me personally a lot of harm as I have great need for the exercise aspect of that facility. I have spinal damage which requires a certain kind of exercise which the gym and pool supplied until it was shut down. I have been offered free access to the YMCA facilities but they were overrun by children and elderly folks just passing away the time of day. That was dangerous for me and an interruption to what I needed to do.
The sad part is we are one of the only V.A. facilities that have such a wonderfully needed area such as this. I am told it will reopen soon and V.A. doctors can make referrals to this place, which helps many of us. I am sure that with a little imagination this could be the focal point of many wonderful things for veterans and perhaps for others. V.A has hired more advocates to handle veterans’ problems and complaints but I doubt that is the answer. Unfortunately, VA administration has not taken seasoned veterans on their offer of help. I firmly believe that many great ideas could come from the joint efforts of veterans and administration working collaboratively. I believe it is a great innovative way to solve mutual problems. I suggested this in the past and it seemed to have been received with positive enthusiasm. However, with the change in administration came the advent of a different direction which I find to be adverse to the positive outcome previously envisioned.
I believe there is too much money spent on a nonsensical direction. A collective of opinions leads to a great result in the end, but if led by arrogance the outcome will be sure failure. I am a strong believer in involving those you are attempting to serve. The outcome will favor the individuals you are trying to make life improvements they so direly need. I hope those that this pen is intended for are reading this. You might need men and women such as us again. Don’t make promises that you have no intention of keeping. We are intelligent human beings.
The advocacy section has been totally replaced either by resignation or by discharge. Doctors hooked to the VA in years past as it was a safe haven for their skills. The civilian world became sue happy and VA gave some very fine doctors a safety net. However, even with this great umbrella of protection we have lost so many great minds. I have been here 47 years and there are some doctors/clinicians that I really miss. VA has been very fortunate, as have I, to have been under the care of some of the best. Unfortunately, the pendulum moves in two directions so some weeding needs to be done. I work with many veterans and hear many stories; they remain such with me until researched and proven. There are many VA employees that feel that a very large burden has been placed on them and eventually the burden becomes too heavy to bear. I am a strong believer that VA has to allow some of the load to be borne by the veterans themselves. By feeling like part of the solution the result will most likely be a very positive one.
As it is told to me I share with you. Allow veterans and employees to be part of the solution not just being considered the problem. Our world as we know it is under siege so let those who have been there and done that be part of the solution. We are as a family and the success of a family is the collective resolution of diversity. Don’t make this an administrative problem or only the few will participate and the result will be more socialistic then democratic. For some, VA is employment, for others who make this all possible it’s their life’s blood. When a veteran comes through the doors with humble bowed head he/she is seeking the best possible outcome and a longer and more comfortable life to share with those they love. If the shoe were on the other foot how would you look at it? Remember, what has been given for that which is being sought. It’s all in the attitude which hopefully originates from the heart.
Finally let me say Happy New Year to you and yours.