VETERANS CORNER: Where to turn when denied benefits

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

Well since we have returned from our humanitarian trip to S.E. Asia much has happened surrounding the Veterans Administration and veterans.

Where does one go when they are told by the VA that they don’t qualify for VA programs as they make too much money? Well, I have represented several such veterans over time. All but one are 100 percent service connected or will soon be. Unfortunately, in many cases the V.A. has been very remiss in the training they have given their employees; both on the medical and administrative sides. I have found that some doctors don’t even know how to properly initiate medical records with proper follow through. This can not only be detrimental to the veteran’s ability to approach the system but also can be misleading when a veteran asks for help.

I personally have found some doctors/medical professionals who are arrogant and have no idea how to diffuse the anxiety of a disabled veteran. Some act as if they are speaking with a street urchin. Some of the pain and suffering a veteran goes through is inside. Even though often time the veteran may become argumentative one needs to be trained on the why of it and find a way to get on even ground with the veteran. He or she is, after all, a patient and is there because of a problem. Many of the medical staff have never served in the military and really don’t understand why a patient can be so irate. Most of them are use to dealing with civilian patients and or varied reasons have decided to work where they don’t have to worry about medical malpractice. This, however, is a two way street. You leave one world of service for another. Unfortunately, the VA system is not giving an adequate transitional training. Recently we have lost some fantastic doctors, some of many years of service and some of only a few weeks, why? One story I heard was the ethical environment. I wonder if it is true, doctors are trained to watch out for seekers?

I mentioned early on that I have represented veterans who have been refused care at the V.A. because they made too much money. That is absolutely true. The last person that I encountered with this reason was met by my wife in the emergency room at the V.A. Togus. He is an old man in his 80s and was only at the V.A. to help a son who was also a veteran and very sick. He was friendly, talkative fellow. While waiting for his son he struck up a conversation with my wife who was delivering some reading material for veterans and their accompaniment.

This fellow told a very riveting story regarding his son’s condition and his own refusal of medical help some 50 years prior. My wife being knowledgeable regarding the V.A. to a minor degree felt very sad for this elderly veteran and told him he should speak with her husband. I met him and talked with him for a while. Eventually, I began to take notes and asked if he wanted to pursue this matter? He said he thought it was too late for him but I, of course, felt otherwise. I received his power of attorney and did a 21-526EZ. His history gave me 14 possibilities and so I filed. In less than one year this veteran was at 90 percent, assuredly 100 percent in the near future. All these years have gone by and this veteran believed he was not eligible for medical aid. He was seriously injured in the military.

Long story short, always get a second opinion and never go it alone. There are some great resources out there and some are veteran advocates with good training. V.B.A. is supposed to go by the letter of the law but at the same time in 38 CFR and 38USCS it states that VBA is there to assist you not only with educational and financial situations but to aid you with sound trained advice regarding claim initiation. The U.S. government realizes we are not all rocket scientists and some of us need help and good sound advice. There are other service organizations such as DAV, American Legion, VFW and Maine State Veterans Services and more. However, you have the right to go directly to the man, so to speak, Veterans Benefits Administration. They are well trained and they are there to help you. At Togus they are located on the second floor of building 248. The phone number is 207-621-6938. They have walk in service but it is appreciated if you call first and make an appointment.

V.A. is open now so you may feel free to enter either through building 200 or building 205, which is where primary care is located. The direct door to VBA has yet to be opened. Administration controls those difficulties if you are in a chair. All doors should be open now that covid has been lifted. If you have a problem call 623-8411, press “0” when you hear the recording and a live person will answer. Ask to be connected to the Director Office for explanations. You also have a right to do that.

This has been lengthy so I will have to end it here and get back with you next week. I will be meeting with some of you after the Juneteenth event and we can continue our discussion on the other issues that plague us all. Please ask for help if you need it. There are some of us out there who will hear and answer your call. You are never in this alone. If you have a problem or in any way feel that something is wrong reach out to one of us. We see each other every week and we truly care. God Bless and stay safe.

The views of the author of this column are not necessarily those of The Town Line newspaper, its staff and board of directors.

VETERANS CORNER: It’s time everyone had a time out

The views of the author of this column are not necessarily those of The Town Line newspaper, its staff and board of directors.

by Gary Kennedy

Most of us are taking a sigh of relief; the mid-term election, with all its turmoil and anxiety, has come to an end or has it? There have been gains and losses for all parties. There are those that will talk about the result for a few weeks, then plans will be made for the next political battle. In a sense, it is a lot like military applications with strategy being the precursor to surgical strikes in hopes to change the nature of things.

In a democracy we always seek perfection which seems to be a matter of opinion; the Democrats want this and the Republicans want that. Some opinions make us strong while others make us weak. It seems to me the safety and overall well-being of our country should be our first concern. We all know right from wrong, and good from bad. Some use God to define that and some just use democracy as an excuse/crutch to take them through the argument. This usually ends up in some sort of conflict ending in violence. It’s time everyone had a time out and take a good look at what is happening to our country. What do you think would happen if we had a serious confrontation on our soil? I think we would all come together in a humble way and plan a unified way to save what we have or what was left.

However, at this time in our conceit and arrogance we can’t imagine our not being superior to the rest of the world. We fantasize magical earth shattering weapons that others don’t know about. With the openness of our country that is but a dream left up to the “fantastic four”. If we won a conflict of this nature the end result would affect each and every one of us. We would no longer have Veterans Day or be thanking veterans as we would all be veterans; Ukraine a good example; all people fight in all places.

Perhaps someone will read these thoughts and have a change of heart/mind. We know what is right or wrong, we know what is good or bad. We can see the disasters in the world on any news channel. So how do you think our veterans see all this? I can assure you veterans see this entirely different than non veterans. After serving our country and seeing death and destruction they become the greatest examples and, in many cases, the greatest leaders available because they have seen and felt both sides of freedom.

A veteran isn’t the same person after earning the name veteran. Some return damaged, used beyond normal possibilities, some of the others become tomorrow’s leaders with great credentials. My greatest concern is how veterans are affected by the negativity in politics. Many veterans become extremely angry to the point of volatility. Other veterans tend to go into hiding; for this group the political theatre is a very painful event. Those of us who work with veterans try to soothe but often times fall short of success. I have no solution other than trying to keep them occupied and away from T.V.

Many of us pray for better times. It wasn’t always this bad. I have had many issues come up lately but I wanted to get this out of the way. These are my feelings as a 100 percent disabled American Veteran.

I want my children and grandchildren to grow in a healthy atmosphere. They are the leaders of tomorrow and the influence of these times will live with them. Some will turn these negatives to good; others will carry anger in their development. All will be reflected in their application of leadership going forward. All this being said and evaluated I feel we should work to eliminate the word veteran from its military connotation. Of course this would have to be done on a worldwide basis. There is no easy chore ahead of us. However, with family and God by our side and the will to see it through, “thy will be done”. God bless and have a happy and safe holiday season.

VETERANS CORNER: Help available to veterans who are at risk for suicide

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

Well here we are again. It has been a nice summer and a beautiful September. We have a lot of rain but we have need of every drop of it.

Some information has come out on the veteran side of things. As you all know some of us belong to groups and some of us just receive information via media, correspondence and just word of mouth. One interesting but troubling piece of information that I received this week was veteran suicide rates. It was stated that there are between 17-50 veteran deaths due to possible suicide daily. It was explained that the variation in numbers was due to the fact 17 deaths daily were definitely suicide but the other 33 were by drug overdoses which weren’t clearly suicide but were most likely.

By VA standards of measure that is more than likely or beyond a reasonable doubt. It breaks my heart to see this happening to our vets; especially when there are many avenues available out there for help. I believe we aren’t doing our job of outreach. Veterans can be very lonely and weary individuals. Some will reach out to us, and for others we just need to be ever vigilant and watch for signs. Often veterans will not reach out for help. We need to be always on the lookout for tell tale signs which indicate that a person might be considering to harm themselves.

Most of us don’t understand what goes through the mind of a person which causes such devastating feelings of hopelessness. This can be so all consuming, overwhelming, that even the fear of our Creator doesn’t come into the problem. We need to be ever vigilant regarding the veterans in our lives whether they are family or friends. If you suspect a person might want to harm themselves you need to become involved. If you can be of personal help, give it. If you can’t do that then you must contact someone who can. A life can depend on it and all life is precious in the eyes of our Creator. Also, the one thing that most of us don’t think about is the wife, husband and/or children. Where will this loss take them? Sometimes the family is the last to know. However, the impact could be devastating. We are all part of the problem as well as the solution.

If you don’t have the number for a suicide watch line, get one and put it on your fridge, or in your phone. Most of these sad situations can be avoided with a little help. I speak for and about veterans but this could be anyone in a deep and lonely place. Some of us watch veterans at this time as the world is in a sad and dangerous place. Many veterans have fought for their country and are now having feelings of remorse. They don’t understand how we could possibly be heading in the wrong direction. They carry the burdens of a never ending conflict.

The mind can play strange games on one’s self. If you don’t know where to turn call the VA at 623-8411 and press “0” to get to a live person to guide you to the correct place, or you can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press #1. Our doctors use to send us to the gym and pool which was built more than 75 years ago for this, as part of physical therapy. If you would like to read about the VA’s history you can find most of this at the Winthrop library where a good deal of the old information is stored/archived. Currently, the gym and pool are being rented out to VA employees. I believe they are charged $45 for this use. Some of us are working on getting these places back. Give a token of your support by getting involved.

The VA priority pathway has seemed to have changed from the welfare of disabled veterans and their care to that of employee retention, through perks. The canteen is still open and some veterans do meet there weekly. Some of us are working on more veterans well being programs and places. Vets always feel better when they are together. A sign of V.A.’s genuine concern would be to give veterans a place to meet so as to become part of the solution through fellowship. Priorities need to be examined. Your word needs to be shared.

If you have any thoughts, ideas or opinions, please share them with me and we will see what can be done. Your word carries a lot of weight. It is said, “God helps those who help themselves”. Brothers and sisters let’s be part of the solution and not the problem. Stay safe and God bless you and yours.

VETERANS CORNER: Veterans still having hard time with medical help

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

Consider this: Part Two of the last column (The Town Line, August 4, page 14). I mentioned the hardship of the past couple of years. Well, nothing in my opinion has improved. Veterans are still having a very hard time with medical help and especially claims. Currently they most have to rely upon the assistance of VBA at Togus. First you have to call and set up an appointment. This could take some time. However, I must admit it is a lot faster and with far greater expertise than the service organizations which I mentioned which have their doors closed. I have actually called the number on the door and found the service officer working from home. How much work do you truly believe gets accomplished working outside of the established work place? I know some of these people and I don’t believe they are getting much done.

A lot of the world, Togus included, love this Covid stay at home situation. I have visited friends who work at home and they do have time to socialize and we pay for it, in more ways than one. There are a lot of great people working at Togus but many are allowed to go home and work. Pain clinics, sleep study clinics, primary care and even the psychiatric departments are taking care of vets via cell phone. This in my opinion is absolutely ridiculous. If there is really nothing wrong with you, this is ideal but if you have a real need for services this is terrible medicine. There are even medical people practicing outside of their education and areas of expertise. Most of we vets know this. This is way outside of the veteran’s and his or her families comfort zone.

The new V.A. transition to Optum United Health Care system has been a nightmare as well. Appointments get messed up and billing has become hazardous. I personally double check all appointments to make sure they are covered. I actually have found some that were not. This could lead to some real financial trouble.

I mentioned before that Togus was becoming like a guard house. The only doors that are open have security on them. They are not looking for guns or terrorists but just want to ask the same old Covid questions. It’s all one big administrative game to reorganize. Veterans pay the price. My wife and I recently went to the Boston area VA facility and we had an excellent experience. We walked through the door, was greeted and proceeded to the coffee shop and purchased a coffee and a snack. After, we went to our appointment and spent 45 minutes with a great doctor and then headed home. We used a mask but didn’t get stopped to answer questions. This was almost the same as Togus VA use to be.

I needed some adaptation to my vehicle and Ms. Anne Boyle, from Massachusetts, came to Togus VA to meet with me and other veterans. It was a great experience, and the point is, she drove here to help vets for a few days. I found out she was an ex-Marine. Military people understand military people and seem to have more compassion and understanding. We need more people like that young lady.

My mention of the gym and the pool in the last issue caused a little stir, as well it should. That annex of the rear of the facility was built approximately 75 years ago to service disabled vets with activity as well as for physical therapy. All these years that area has serviced the veterans well until the new administration took over. In my opinion both the local, regional and even the national should be ashamed of themselves. Many veterans including myself are alienated from something so fundamental to our well being while the powers that be rent the area out to employees. Is this supposed to be a perk for remaining at the VA?

Senator Collins reads articles from this news outlet and I am wondering how she feels about this. I will be visiting her this coming week and I will ask what is her opinion on these matters. I will also be asking the Secretary of Veterans Affairs about this. I have even been put on a list for Tucker Carlson at Fox News. I have no idea what my chances of that happening but who knows. He does take some issues that are veteran related. Some of you are having trouble with your outsourced bills and I was going to address that this week but it will have to wait until the next issue. There is just so much to say. I will give you a sample and a good explanation of how things are paid next time. Stay safe and God Bless.

The views of the author of this column are not necessarily those of The Town Line newspaper, its staff and board of directors.

VETERANS CORNER: VA campus in a turmoil

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

These past couple of years have been very problematic, depressing and a terrible weight on the shoulders of the American people. I personally have had a difficult time of it, but even more so for our veterans. My phone rings every day and most of the time it’s not for pleasant reasons. It’s usually because a veteran is in trouble.

I have given almost a half century trying to help veterans find peace either medically or emotionally. It hasn’t been easy but those who have given so much are worth every minute I can give.

The Veterans Administration has now been placed on time limits with vets. If you are allowed 20 minutes, then you have stolen five. The advent of the time limit with veteran interviews has service organizations doing the same thing. Walk through the corridor where all the service organizations are located and you will find five in a row have their doors closed, that’s all of them. Those hallways were busy with veterans and employees just two years ago. Strange but if you continue on you will find the store is open, the cafeteria is open and even the satellite Starbucks is open.

If you continue on you will see the door leading to the gym and swimming pool. Veteran access is denied even though they were built to service the veteran both for severely disabled veteran’s recreation and also for the much needed physical therapy that many vets including myself need to heal our bodies. Even though some of us were given letters from our V.A. doctors requesting the use of the gym and pool for medical reasons, we are denied. I hear this complaint often. One excuse is no life guard. Well, of course, to have a life guard you need to do some research and be willing to pay for that service. If MacDonald can pay $15-17 per hour why can’t VA? One of the problems is the administration is for the most part not veterans, are not in pain and don’t realize what their jobs entail. The pool and gym are isolated from administration and the medical theatre.

Recently, I saw a couple of guys going through the corridor that connects all building with gym bags over their shoulders. I followed in my wheelchair and they went to the gym. I later asked another about that access and he told me that administration was renting out the gym to employees for, I believe, $45. Two years we vets have been waiting to get back in the pool and gym, some of us with spinal injuries and this is what they do to us. How can I any longer look a vet in the eyes, allowing what I know, and say its Covid?

The V.A. campus is in turmoil and is a mess. Two years ago construction was to begin on the new building, “Community Living”. All the equipment and trailers full of supplies were delivered and dropped off on the lawn, what a mess. To look busy a small amount of tarring was done, staging put up but a minimal amount of work has been performed. I was told that the money wasn’t here. Four great construction months have gone by with almost nothing being built. Veterans and employees aren’t stupid. Don’t assume we are.

A couple of years ago we had great support from Washington, but now, nothing. Vets are being farmed out, bills aren’t being paid and veteran services have fallen by the wayside. The powers that be have let us down. They are too busy practicing judicial formats which they have no business doing. The vets are saying our country is falling apart and we who have seen the worse now fear even worse. These are feelings generated by vets regarding what they see and feel.

They are hurting and the enemy is at our back door. Vets know and feel these things. Some veterans are even being forced to pay bills which according to Optum they were not supposed to accrue. In my next column I will explain how and how much these bills we accrue from outside vendors are paid. Then you will understand what is happening and why.

Be patient my friends and fellow veterans, help is on the way. Stay safe and God Bless.

The views of the author of this column are not necessarily those of The Town Line newspaper, its staff and board of directors.

VETERANS CORNER: Remembering the fallen on Memorial Day

by Gary Kennedy

The last Monday in May is strategically placed as to generate the name Memorial Day weekend. As you can see placing this holiday in this position allows for a long weekend for most of us. Schools, federal and state agencies as well as others will be closed. It is considered a federal holiday. Memorial Day is also considered the unofficial beginning of summer. We still consider June 21 official first day of summer. (Season)

Memorial Day was originally referred to as Decoration Day. This being a time for paying our respects to those who died in battle defending the United States of America. President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York, as birthplace of this holiday. Waterloo held an event on May 5, thus celebrating the fallen. However, in 1865, a couple of weeks before the end of the Civil War, freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, held a ceremony giving Union soldiers a proper burial.

The first Decoration Day was observed on May 30, 1868, proclaimed by General John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Flowers were placed on both the Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, in Washington, DC, with President James Garfield as the guest speaker. In 1868 until this present date approximately 5,000 people gather at Arlington National Cemetery. Flowers were placed on all graves. In 1890 it was recognized by the North and South to pay respect on the same date. This was due to World War I and those fighting in any war. The date of the holiday, if we can refer to it as such, was changed from May 30 to the last Monday of the month of May, thus creating the long weekend.

Since 1950, 1,200 soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry place small flags at each of the more than 260,000 graves at Arlington. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to insure that no flag has fallen. Red poppies are also often placed on the crosses. As I stated last year, the idea poppies was derived from the poem in 1915 by John McCrae, titled In Flanders Field. The poppy is famous from the battles in Belgium and France and is celebrated by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Other key remembrances are the candles that are placed by the Boy and Girl Scouts on the 15,300 grave sites of buried soldiers at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Parks. Also, it is requested that all governors of the United States direct the flag to be flown at half staff until noon on Memorial Day on all buildings both foreign and domestic.

Remember there is a difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial is intended to commemorate those who died for country whereas Veterans Day honors all who have served their country. This is just a little information on a very important holiday. We realize for most of you this is the wonderful long weekend. Just remember the veterans didn’t die to create a holiday. They died because they love God, Country, family and freedom. They were all aware that service to their country could be a one way ticket. And for hundreds of thousands it was just that. So love and enjoy your family, friends and God but take a few minutes to give thanks to the men and woman who made it all possible.

Also, say a special prayer for those brave men and women who are now standing up to the tyrannical hand of those merciless killing the innocence of the Democratic Christian country of Ukraine. My heart and the hearts of many other veterans go out to them as we watch their country and people being destroyed. A braver country cannot be found anywhere. Many people are new to our country so they are perhaps not as passionate about the faith of others but they obviously know what it means to be free or they wouldn’t have come here.

I say a special prayer for the Americans that have left on their own free will to fight along side the Ukraine people. I wish I was young again. May God be with you during this sad holiday. Teach your children well as they are our future and I hope they take it on with a pure, loving and compassionate heart. God bless you and those you have lost. Stay safe my friends.

VETERANS CORNER: Grants available to retro fit homes for veterans wheelchair bound

by Gary Kennedy

I met a veteran the other day in a wheelchair and just began a conversation with him. It seems he and his wife are both veterans. I being in a chair myself began talking about some of the difficulties involved. He concurred and explained he had an old house and it was difficult to get around and do things. I told him I have the same problems but applied for V.A. grants which are supposed to help with those problems. To my surprise and amazement he wasn’t aware of these programs.

I was thrilled to be able to help him and his significant other with just some information and advice. There are several grants out there to help make improvements such as bathroom renovation and accessibility for the wheelchairs etc. also there are grants for remodeling your home if it’s not safe or navigable. There are also grants which could build you a small home. (S.A.H Grant) Specially Adapted Home can mean remodel an existing home or even build a home on land you already own. Currently the S.A.H Grant is $101,754. A local agent is Kevin Nash. He can be reached at KEVIN.NASH@VA.GOV. However, he lives in Vermont and does it all by phone.

Although this sounds like a wonderful thing that is being given to the veterans it doesn’t come without its problems. Two by fours are closing in at $9 per 8 per foot and two by six are nearing $19. In any case most well known contractors won’t work with less than one-third down, which is only fair in my opinion. You can’t honestly expect professionals to supply materials and labor without some help from the customer. That is a normal amount required if you are having a home built without V.A. assistance. The VA Grant doesn’t give that. This grant is only given once, so its use must be monitored and protected.

One other grant should be mentioned is the “CAREGIVER GRANT” which is available in levels. The first level is loss of use of legs or an arm and a leg, or just not being able to do certain things on your own. An example would be you need help washing, bathing, dressing, tying your shoes, cooking, feeding, medication delivery and safety. I believe the current stipend that is given is approximately $1,681. This can be paid to your wife or significant other. It is a tax free amount for delivering care.

The second level is for one who is wheelchair bound and unable to do other necessary functions of everyday living. I believe the stipend for this level is around $2,600. There are more situations which you should or could apply for. Contact Ms.Tammy Holman at at the Veterans Administration at Togus. Her telephone number is 207-623-8411 extn. 5906 or 7987. She can send you a flyer with all the qualifications.

All except the (S.A.H. Grant) are easy to apply for and obtain. If you qualify for the S.A.H. Grant you should have no problem with the remodel or constructions if you are prepared to contribute one third of the needed money. The way I understand it is this upfront money will be refunded to you along the way. If you don’t have it, I haven’t been able to find an option. However, I will check with the Secretary of V.A. for an answer for you. Also if you do receive a loan at the bank, how and when do you get your money back. Make sure you receive an answer. These people are still working at home and refuse to come to you. I have tried. Perhaps with help from my group we can get answers or possible changes.

I probably should mention the Adaptive Equipment Grant which allows the veteran to apply for addendums to his/her vehicle to aid in his being able to transfer into his vehicle which may have been given by the VA. I was given a vehicle and told I could receive a wheelchair lift and other accessories. I called the administrator of the adaption equipment, Evangeline Boyle, who is located at Boston VA Healthcare system, 940 Belmont Street Brockton, MA 02301, telephone number, 508-583-4500. And she told me I would have to drive to Boston for a driving test. I had to forgo this free needed equipment as I don’t drive to Boston because of the distance and the other problems with that long a drive, in that congested area.

The VA gave me a grant for a remodel or new house as well as money for a new vehicle yet they wouldn’t send someone to our VA facility to do what is needed in my case and the case of others. Also, why would I have to take a driver test for a wheelchair lift? I will not allow veterans to be abused not even myself. This process/procedure is not acceptable. I will address this when I contact the National Director. Military abuse has become Elder Abuse.

So all this information being given should lead you to placing the appropriate phone call or email. I know for many of you the initial down payment can be a very big problem. I have been waiting for two years to receive what they say I qualify for. If you qualify, why is it so difficult to receive? That would be a good question unless the government really doesn’t want you to seek this sort of relief. Frank Siller who leads the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in honor of his brother’s death, Stephen, during 9-11, gives his money from the heart. You don’t need to contribute if you’re the recipient. The vets he serves don’t have to pay upfront money also. The difference is there is no politics involved.

I hope I have been of some help. God bless America and also to those in the Ukraine that are having a taste of hell. Some of our great veterans are on their way there now to help. I wish I were one. May God bless and keep them safe. My email is

VETERANS CORNER: March 3 recognizes paid and unpaid care givers

by Gary Kennedy

March, named for the Roman God, Mars, must have been a very confused god as he allowed more than a 120 holidays to be celebrated in the month of March. I went through the list and came up with two favorites. The first was National Corn Beef Day. I am a big fan of corn beef and cabbage, with a few other vegetables thrown in and cooked for four hours, slowly. I guess it’s the Irish in me but I just can’t get enough of that great stuff. My mother was great with this dish. She added dumplings, which you have to have a taste for. They are great when they take on the flavors of all that is in the pot, corn beef cooked slowly will melt in your mouth. It becomes very tender, especially if you pick out a fatty one. I can see some of you going, “yuck”. You probably would prefer Vegan, not me.

Well, now that I am hungry, let me go on to the other holiday that I chose and that is Care Givers Day. When I think of this day it places a big smile on my face. Some of my greatest and best friends around the world are not thinking about world domination but the caring of others. Most of these people are humanitarians and do this work out of love and heart. Some also receive a stipend for giving this service.

In any case it takes a special person to perform in this capacity. Most caregivers come with some training which is usually given at some medical level. These folks are usually well versed in the care of those in need of a helping hand. Places such as our VA system give online classes which carry some detail at many different levels, as there are several levels and situations of need.

Unless these folks are lucky enough to come from a wealthy family or inherit a lot of money they will never be among the rich. However, wealth is not necessarily measured monetarily. You can’t buy happiness and that is what many of the Caregivers bring to the table. When you wake in the morning knowing you’ve helped another or about to do that, it’s a wonderful feeling. Our world is in such disarray it sometimes feels overwhelming but you know you must carry on and pray for the best. Caring for the ill, disabled and elderly requires tens of millions of these caregivers. Some of these wonderful people even give up their careers in order to fulfill this mission.

November is National Care Giver Appreciation Month. I personally like March 3 as it picks a particular day in which to recognize and appreciate both the paid and unpaid Care Givers. Some of us do this freely and even spend our own money. This can be a thankless job with even family members avoiding doing it. Also, there are organizations that give a stipend yet they don’t truly offer the support necessary to accomplish the labor of love before them. If you’re in it just for the money you are in it for the wrong reason, and are wasting your time and the well being of others, as you probably don’t know what you’re doing.

When it comes to our veterans I fight to the bitter end and try my best to expose the inadequacies of the system as well as the individual care. I try to get the word out to all our vets, especially those I work with. They most likely are in need of aid and attendance if they are asking for it. Its only common sense that if one of our soldiers reaches out, he or she is most likely in need. We have programs out there now for them that are relatively easy to get but are not properly run. You’ve heard me mention the “Peter Principle” in the past and that is where the buck stops. Those that get placed into positions they have no business being in are the ones that damage and can’t manage these much needed programs. When you ask a question relative to their mission statement and they answer, “I don’t know”, then you know you have just met someone who has succumbed to the Peter Principle.

If you are a moderate to severely damaged veteran, either physically or psychologically, then perhaps you are in need and qualify for a caregiver. The caregiver can be your wife or a significant other. Most likely they will qualify for a stipend of at least $1,600 per month, tax free and possible benefits. That person will receive some caregiver training via online. It’s well worth looking into. For veterans, call 623-8411-0 and ask for the Veterans Advocate and then the booklet on the eligibility for the Caregiver Program. Don’t let your veteran go it alone if he/she needs a little or a lot of help. It will be very beneficial for the veteran and rewarding for you, so there you have it.

This is my conversation over a great Corned Beef Dinner. You will respect this meal on St. Patrick’s Day. I will remind you. Take care my friends and God Bless America and those others who are suffering in the world. Also, pray for our brothers and sisters under siege. God only knows they need much more than our prayers. One more thing: since I write “Veterans Corner” I address the needs of veterans. However, the state and federal governments have programs as well which address non veterans. Stay safe and take “Care”.

VETERANS CORNER: Last couple of years have been hard on veterans

by Gary Kennedy

The views of the author in this column are not necessarily those of The Town Line newspaper, its staff and board of directors.

The past couple of years have been hard for us. Our veterans have found it to be extremely so. I have lost many friends and more are preparing to meet their maker. It’s a time when we pray and hope that for the most part we got it right. It’s a heart breaker to say good bye and rely on what comes next. It’s a time to make amends and seek forgiveness for those things we know shouldn’t have occurred or we should have not been part of or allowed. I had someone I have loved for a very long time ask me, “Gary do you think that I have been a good enough person to be allowed to have another chance to prove myself?” What would your answer be? Mine was, “you have always had a good heart and never went out of your way to hurt anyone. You gave when others were in need. I’m sure those things are taken into account and used in the ultimate assessment.”

I find myself staring up at the night sky often now with extreme imagination and wonder. I am amazed at the beauty and perfect harmony the celestial bodies display when the sky is clear and my heart is wide open with questions.

I try my best to make sure they are represented in a now political way and that promises that are made are promises that are kept; whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. I believe after God and family should come those that have given their all so that we may live. There is so much we can and should do for each other but it seems we are still doing battle with those who want things to change in illogical ways. We have our politicians choosing causes to wrap their political position around. For the most part we agree on most things but we can’t look at each other and agree. To each his or her own seems to be the way of things.

Think about all the negatives we are living through and see how many of those things we actually agree with. We want our children educated properly; we want food and clean air and water. We all want work and opportunity and the chance to accomplish our dreams. Every country has its venue and has to transcend the growing pains that walk hand in hand with accomplishment. We are aware that some countries live under extreme and severe conditions. No one knows this any better than our veterans who have lived and died in some of these sad depraved places and conditions. Soldiers see it all and for the most part wish they could really make a change. We can influence but the people have to be the ones who see change through. We are undergoing some of those ourselves currently.

Recently, Covid has brought us together as well as torn us apart. We are a nation of freedom living under a constitution that some brilliant men with hindsight and foresight put together to salvage almost any situation for their people and their need for guidance and direction in future events. There are those who would toy with that which has been proven to be an honorable document built on principle and the love of God and our fellow man. Unfortunately, it is being put to the test currently by some who hate America and would love to see us fail. It saddens me and all the veterans that I know who have given their best to eradicate the worst, thus allowing the future to have the chance at the best and to prosper.

War in the world creates Veterans Administrations and those V.A.s need the support of honest men and women to carry on and show the future that what has been promised will come to pass. If you have no fear of the Russians sitting on the Ukraine border or China’s threats on a great place such as Taiwan, then you had better learn another language because that is the only way you will possibly survive. Along with our government, our Veterans Administration has been allowed to become weak and undependable. We hear all the time that our veterans are really receiving the best care possible. If you are involved and look more carefully you will see the sad state of affairs we are going through.

Our southern border is open with millions of aliens coming through with drugs, child abuse, prostitution and crime of all sorts. Many of these are criminals who have been convicted and released by our courts. At last count there were people from 150 plus different countries coming through the Texas Wall. The local law enforcement has fought day and night to stop this but they keep on coming. At the cost of our arm forces and veterans these aliens are being supported. Inflation is the highest it has ever been. Look at our grocery stores, and ours are nowhere near as bad as other states. The drugs are killing our children and we are at an educational stand still. I have been to Southeast Asia and seen the poverty, slavery implemented to build an empire; and an empire they are successfully building. In China, they have built future cities with no one living there yet. The normal Asian people are wonderful people but the governing principal is that of evils.

We need skilled craftsmen badly. They are paid at a higher scale than the men and women in suits, if you can find one to help you out. The future is in the trades. I am a father of middle income children and they work days and night to do it. They were taught respect and work ethic. They live a good family Christian life. My heart breaks at this world’s possible outcome. Test missiles are being tossed around and a race to space has begun. Also Covid was no accident. Millions have died and multi millions of hearts have been broken.

The V.A. has put security on its doors and send a very large percentage of their patients (veterans) outside for help. The VA is paying the outside doctors approximately 35-51 percent of the billing of those doctors and state,” that is the maximum and to not bill the veteran”. So what does that say to you? Well I have experienced this first hand and have been very fortunate. Some doctors, as V.A. knows, are now refusing to take veteran patients. V.A. knows this but they are pushing this as far as they can. Top of the line doctors will not be dictated to regarding their fees. I have researched this and have been told, “We are professionals and so is our staff, so we must pay them a professional wage”. Long story short, they can’t take anymore veterans at VA’s dictated rates. If you think about it you will see the rational of their situation. It’s not that they don’t want to help veterans but they are being asked to foot the bill.

VA is building lots of structures but they aren’t paying a fair wage to their doctors and they aren’t staying current with the need for new and modern equipment. If it’s a specialty procedure you need you have to be sent outside of the V.A. system. Many doctors have left the VA to work for some of our coastal hospitals. It would not be unusual for a veteran to be sent to a doctor that use to work for the VA. I don’t know who they think they’re kidding with this game that they are playing. VA is using a middle man called OPTUM, a Community Care Network at 3237 Airport Road, La Crosse, Wisconsin 54603. If you don’t have an approved prior consult they won’t authorize the payment of your bill. The good part is for the most part you don’t have to pay if it was authorized on this end. If not, you may later see the hospital or doctor’s office billing you, claiming the authorization rested with you. They could have a strong case if they relied upon previous on-going procedures. I have been a victim of this in the past myself. It took a lot to save my credit. I am working on some of this currently to help protect veterans that I have stood for, in the past.

It should be obvious that the problem rests with upper level management for going this route and allowing the V.A. system to run at only a small percentage of its capability. You have heard me in the past couple of years complaining about the VA’s partial shutdown while all other hospitals and rehab centers are running. We have one of the greatest rehab centers in New England that is mostly shutdown. The example I have given in the past is the VA gym and swimming pool which serviced many rehab sessions. They will pay you to go to the YMCA but that doesn’t work for most disabled vets especially with PTSD. All is open but VA is shutdown. They blame it on Covid. The gym and pool are in a separate section of VA with a private entrance in the rear. (No excuse). They have a plan of their own and not one to benefit the veterans. Management and the plan need to be looked at. It is for veterans they exist at what they do and the plan should be shared with veterans.

I always appreciate your input. It helps all veterans. We need audience with those who allow this to continue. To be a veteran is a proud thing. If we are disabled because of service we should wear that also with pride and dignity. Maybe it’s time for VA to take a different course. We don’t need more non-experienced advocates we need to search for the answers to the problems. Please share your experience with us. We really want to help. Communication is a two way street, let’s use it. Stay safe and God bless.

VETERANS CORNER: Too much money spent on a nonsensical direction

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

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.