NEWS FROM THE VA: It seems the negatives outweigh the positives

Veterans Affairs Regional Benefit Office Togus, ME

by Gary Kennedy

Well, here we are again and I wish I had a lot of great news to share with you but these are trying times and, unfortunately, it seems the negatives out-weigh the positives. It seems even some of the positives are masking negative intent. I have received much anxious correspondence lately, it causes me some very deep thought; I never thought I’d see what appears a good thing masking as something else. It is so negative to be searching for an ulterior motive for what would normally be taken on its face as a good thing.

Recently, VA’s center Director and Regional Director made rapid decisions with a very large amount of money lying in its coffers. There are some of us who have a great deal of knowledge regarding V.A. and its history and needs. We have watched this Covid epidemic used in what some believe to be a distorted way. It has been authorized to build roads, sidewalks, two very large buildings while at the same time take advantage of the Covid epidemic and shutdown and/or eliminate some very essential path-ways to well being.

During this time of calamity, while there are those who think no one is watching, veteran services are being undermined, even destroyed. Some examples would be the veteran outreach program which is doomed to self destruct. Originally, the politicians sought a way to service all veterans in a like manner. Some veterans live in remote areas. Two things come into play here and they are the distance veterans still have to travel for care, but most importantly it should be quality care.

Vietnam era vets such as myself are now reaching the end of the line, so in order to grab those last few years, we need quality help. Reducing distance is only good for the menial of medical problems. Those of us who have suffered through cancer and many other trying medical problems need a large medical facility with MDs, specialists to help us achieve the edge we need. Instead we find life and death decisions and treatment are being handled by nurse practitioners, PAs and other such medical people, who are great to a point but that point should and must have its limits.

We are even importing medical people from India, Pakistan and the Philippines to name only a few. Don’t take me wrong, some of these medical people are specialists who will work for less money and the ability to become American citizens. Although this is unfair immigration, realizing there are paid waiting applicants, who are waiting their turn, it does give us quality needed people.

Until this past year we were paying outside practitioners exactly what they billed for their service. Well, in less than a year that came to a screaming halt. I spoke with medical representatives who now refuse to take veterans because the VA had cut the fees to between 35-51 percent of the bill they submitted. I had one office manager in Portland say, “we are a specialty operation and we have to pay our people a top salary as they are all professionals. We can’t do that on what the VA has limited us to now. We just can’t take veterans anymore.” That is something that is going to become more frequent. VA knew what they were doing and it is coming back to bite them.

What started out as a potential good thing is rapidly turning sour. Look at the wait times now. I personally was given a clinic appointment which I kept and was told I would be seen in a couple of weeks to finish it up. That was just the paperwork, information and partial exam. I received a call last week stating my wait to finish just the interview part would be three more months. My condition was/is serious and service connected. I used to be treated for this with weekly injections, or as needed. As you know I also work with veterans and help them with their cases to get medical help as well as claim resolution. Even though I have near death situations on my desk I will still have to wait.

Recently the Veterans Administration hired V.A. Advocates. When that program first started I offered to volunteer and that was considered great. That was the last conversation we had. Oh yes, there is money to hire. There are signs everywhere but still our men and women vets are being farmed out to strange facilities. Some vets have been going to Togus VA for many years and feel comfortable there. Another point I’d like to make is given the average age of Togus patients, Neurology is a very important department. Recently, the most knowledgeable neurologist who had worked there for many years decided to retire. I had a private conversation with her about what was going on and that we would miss her. She said, “Why? I really can’t do much for you.” She explained she could do some basic stuff but the rest would have to be done somewhere else. I asked, “Why?” she said, “we talked about this before”. We have no EMG equipment; it’s all broken and VA chooses not to replace it. What good is a carpenter without his hammer? I finally remembered I had addressed this before and had written a short letter as well as paid a visit to the director’s office. I received no response from either.

The last thing I will mention today and only because I hear about this a lot, and that is physical therapy. The therapy room itself is empty on most days. The most important and least expensive is the gym and pool. We are one of the only V.A.s with such a great set up in which therapy with caregivers can be accomplished without paying all but one person and yet the benefits it gives we older veterans are immeasurable. There is need for a lifeguard but the benefits to those of us with limb problems are great.

I would be remiss in my reporting and responding to the veteran’s questions if I didn’t mention the clever way that security stations have been placed at all entrances. Veterans use to be free to visit their home away from home but now they don’t feel comfortable. Also, there are many phones not being answered, thus causing walk-ins. The security booths were originally set up temporarily but now they are obviously permanent paid positions. All clubs and gyms with pools are open but are not user friendly to our vets.

I hear much about this and I believe action is being taken on behalf of the vets. If you have been harmed in anyway by this unnecessary act please share it with us so we can address it. We don’t want the VA being treated politically.

Stay calm and safe my fellow brother/sister veterans. You are not alone during these trying times. Just because the Service Organization doors are closed doesn’t mean there isn’t help. Call your organization for help and Senator Collins and King’s office are still working. I go there and you can as well. Like I told you in my last column, don’t let the news stations get you down. There is more reality in the cartoon stations these days and they won’t depress you.

God bless you all, stay strong and help one another.

VETERANS CORNER: Veterans who served protecting this country are very fragile as time leaves them behind

by Gary Kennedy

This has proven to be a very hard time for active military as well as our veterans. I am a veteran myself as you know and I have family and friends both active military and veteran. I have worked with veterans for more than 40 years and have never seen anything as heart wrenching as the happenings of late. The world is placing our military in a very shameful state. Our men and women in uniform have always walked tall with pride representing the world’s elite enforcers of justice and freedom.

Many of you with veterans at home know the pain and anguish that our veterans are going through. Almost every visit to Togus VA has, as a part of its screening, the question, “do you have feeling of harming yourself”? Non-veterans don’t realize how sensitive Americas finest are. The pride and love that went into adorning one’s self with the American uniform is second only to God and family.

Everyone has been advised to be on potential suicide watch. Men and women who gave their all protecting this country are very fragile as time leaves them behind. Those who never served or who don’t have someone close who did don’t see what’s happening to our country through similar eyes. Now is a very conflicting time for our military and veteran populations. Now is your time to support these people from your heart. Thanking them for their service is a very respectful thing to do but sometimes it might require more. A gentle touch, an understanding ear can make a lot of difference in helping those who gave their youth for the sake of our country.

There are those who turn their back on our flag and take a knee in protest. Those people obviously don’t care how the peace keepers feel or see the price that was paid by hundreds of thousands who gave it all for them. Respect isn’t in their vocabulary. Most of us feel it is shameful the way things have been lately. Do we deserve our freedom or should Mandarin be considered in the school curriculum? If you ask a veteran, he or she will tell you that things are about to get really bad. How can you be convinced that you won’t like being under the rule of another country, especially Marxist or communist regimes? Look at other countries that are ruled under Socialistic, Communistic governments. Some of us have been in such countries where they can shoot you, your family, take your children and/or your women. I believe some of you haven’t thought this through. Do you want a government who counts your children?

I pray for America each night after watching the horrors on the news channels. It’s bad and it’s real my friends. You can see it for yourself. My heart goes out to those living it. I can hear their fear and despair as I try to fall asleep. I must watch to be informed but for you I recommend cartoons.

During this nightmare the VA hasn’t been much help as they try to pull a switch on the vets. Covid shutdown has allowed them to keep vets away; then came construction to elongate the distancing. At this time the vets noticed security being implemented to further distance them from a place they think of as a safe sanctuary for them. It was a clever way to place Togus on lockdown, the security stations became permanent. More and more veterans are being farmed out but that will only be for a short time, I believe, as the cost is far too great. We have new buildings, sidewalks, roads and a new Community Living Center being built. However, it has been several years since new operating theatres for orthopedics and general surgery and also the need for EMG equipment, which has been broken for years, goes without notice, yet a new neurologist was hired, as well as a nurse practitioner to work with diabetic patients. Eventually they all have to be referred out. These are things which are never addressed by D.C..

The best gym with a pool for both emotional and physical therapy remains shutdown mostly for “lack of a life guard”. However, we are starting to look good. Last but not least the records section has become difficult to access because of staffing, shortages. Perhaps that’s not important with all Veteran Services’ doors being shut. Be mindful of what’s happening and do your best to be part of the solution, not the cause.

God bless our troops and watch over our vulnerable veterans.

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

Gary Kennedy can be reached at 458-2832.

NEWS FROM THE VA: Vets should be made aware of the changes that are being made

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

Well, it seems most of our veterans have received the vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer were the vaccines used. It seems all reacted well to both shots. In most cases the significant other had to wait a bit but all in all it was accomplished. Supposedly VA is in phase 3 of the shut down. I have been told that during this phase physical therapy should reopen. Most of we vets have noticed it has become very difficult to go inside of the VA. I for one believe that this is part of the master plan. VA is being transformed into a different place than what we old timers are use to. When you walk through the doors you are met with, “What brings you here today”? An appointment is what they are looking for. Under Director Ryan Lilly’s watch security and restriction seems to have become necessary and it seems to have been planned out very well. You don’t see this in Jamaica Plains or Boston. Time to speak with President Biden.

There are four booths for processing inside Building 200 and two at Building 205. There you are still screened for Covid and questioned regarding your purpose for being there. When you see all the great things that are being given the vets it would lead one to believe all is good. I noticed that Covid has been addressed and as the last shots were given the construction trucks started rolling in. They are now blocking things in and tearing up the road. Some vets notice and worry about the restriction. VA doesn’t share what they are doing with the vets. I firmly believe the vets should be made aware about the changes that are being made for their sake. VA is sacred ground for many veterans who have depended on it as a life line. Some vets have nervous disorder such as PTSD and change can upset them. Only trained, loving eyes would realize this. During this Covid ordeal many changes have been conveniently implemented. Perhaps some will turn out OK.

One of the big concerns has been the violation of the “Duck Habitat” next to the new hospitality house. We counted as many as 100 geese feeding on the rich habitat pond. The Canada Geese have felt so secure there that they have decided to nest. So far we have counted a dozen chicks. It is a wonderful place but it is getting very crowded. There have been some complaints made to the state but there seems to be no response. Still more construction goes on around the pond. With 500 acres you would think the imagination of the Lilly’s team could spread out a little. It takes more than brick and mortar to comfort the sick, wounded and weary. Some people don’t see the big picture. They don’t get into the heads of those they are supposed to be serving.

Togus is a wildlife lover’s paradise and that all adds to the healing process. I for one love watching the deer frolic in the meadow in the evening hours. My wife and I park there and just relax and watch. The folks who bring loved ones to have procedures stay in the hospitality houses and get to enjoy this beauty while waiting for their loved ones to be returned. Still not all is as great as Washington would have us believe.

During this pandemic veterans have been OK’d for outside doctors. This was always desired by vets, especially those living in remote areas. However, accepting this brought about teleconference VA appointments and has lightened the in-house load at VA. V.A. likes this procedure as it requires less time. I believe it will only last so long and the quality of the veterans care will deteriorate.

I spoke with a couple of doctors and found out VA was only paying between 35-51 percent of the billed accounts. At that reduced rate quality care will not last very long. Have a good week my friends and God bless.

SPECIAL TO THE TOWN LINE: Memorial Day about fallen soldiers

A close-up view of a tombstone at the Arlington National Cemetery, marking the grave site of four unknown crewmen assigned to the battleship USS MAINE (BB 2). The Marine sank after exploding off the coast of Havana, Cuba, killing approximately 260 crewmen. The sabotaging of the main precipatated the American declaration of war against Spain in 1898.

by Gary Kennedy

Memorial Day is a federal holiday which is celebrated on the last Monday of May, each year. To me Memorial Day indicates a day of memory. In our case it is the American realization that our freedom isn’t free at all. Young men and women have gone to war to protect the American way of life for several centuries now.

Fortunately, for those who did not serve in a military capacity had the support of those who would give their all to protect this great country and the residence who resided in the place they called home. This day is full of “do’s and don’ts”. The don’ts are what we need to avoid. Research shows five things we should not do on Memorial Day;

  • Don’t wish anyone a “Happy Memorial Day”. Memorial Day was not born out of happiness and joy.
  • Don’t thank the current troops. (Thank you for your service) it’s not about them.
  • Don’t regard the sale at Wal-Mart as a tribute to our deceased brothers and sisters. Be respectful.
  • Don’t forget it exists and why, explain it to the children.
  • Don’t let politics sway you from the respect that is deserved to those who gave their life for you. If you don’t respect what was given, then life means very little to you.

It’s very important to remember we are not celebrating veterans here; we are memorializing those who gave their lives. In 1868 General John Logan declared the day for paying respect to “those who have died”, defending our way of life with flags and flowers. As you can see there is an important distinction. Thank you for your service and wish you were here are very different. Even though some of us may disagree with the politics of war; that is not the issue of the holiday. We are showing thanks for our existence and respect for those who died securing that. No one could give more than his/her life for family, friends and country.

Historically our flags are flown at half staff from dawn until noon. You can put flowers on the grave of any fallen hero. It is customary to pause at 3 p.m. and say a little prayer. Wearing a red poppy is a symbol of respect which began early on when Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day. (May 30, 1868).

The Ohio Congressman and future president, James Garfield gave the first speech which took place at Arlington National Cemetery. This began as a Civil War event, in which over 620,000 men and women died. Later this was expanded to include all wars. Remember, Veterans Day honors all that have served in the armed forces but Memorial Day honors those who gave their lives. The late Billy Graham said, “Courage is Contagious”. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened. President James Garfield stated, “For love of country they accepted death.” Nathan Hale stated, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

There are so many famous quotes surrounding this holiday. “In Flanders Field” probably is the greatest of them all. It was written by a Canadian physician during World War I, Lt. Colonel John McCrae. McCrae was inspired to write the poem while presiding at the funeral of a dear friend. Later he discarded the poem believing it to not be good. It was retrieved by another and published giving credit to McCrae.

In Flanders Field was first published on December 8, 1915. It is one of the most quoted poems to this very day, and applies to all conflicts of war and has even been used in advertising. In the U.S.A. we use it with Veterans and Memorial days. It was used as a recruiting tool during the romance period of war and was written in order to give a voice to the dead. A simple wooden cross in a field of poppies is where it received the breath of life from the mind and hand of one trained to save life. Bury your friend with a raincoat for cover. War is hell. When will we ever learn? Don’t forget this and be sure to pause at 3 p.m., and whisper your prayer. The world is in a bad place, even now. Enjoy your day off with friends and family and remember those who have allowed you to do that.

God Bless and stay safe.

In Flanders Field

The Larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce head amid the guns below

We are the dead. Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye brake faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Field.

VETERANS CORNER: Those we used to depend on, now need our help

Gary Kennedyby Gary Kennedy

This has become a very difficult year for everyone but especially for our vets, as they age during these times of trouble and strife. Attitudes are going, without question, as our politicians are so divided it is scaring the heck out of everyone and pitting one group against another. Our southern border is being overrun and the homicide rate is the highest it has ever been. Some politicians are facing these obstacles head on while others are shying away from the fray.

Many very normal people are very, very fearful with domestic and world threat. I have aligned myself with veterans for many years, and I must say I haven’t seen this much PTSD in our vets than I do now. As we age those who use to be strong, energetic men and woman serving in our armed forces, protecting us all, have been reduced to today’s elderly with many in nursing homes viewing the USA with teary eyes. That which once was sweet, safe and home has become worrisome and coated with copious amounts of anxiety.

However, you don’t have to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or any other form of stress disorder to feel this way in today’s environment. In any case, the weak now among us are the ones we use to depend on for our safety and freedom. It’s always been understood that we would be there for them when the time came. What does it take for us to realize all the danger we are not only placing our beloved veterans in, but the children as well. We need to stop fighting over who did what or what history might say about us and look around. There are superior negative forces outside that are biding there time to pounce at our weakest moment.

As a humanitarian I travel all over the world and hear and see many things. Some of what is being said is not very nice. We are feeling too safe in our arrogance. In a visit to a local veterans nursing home, not too long ago, I saw some things that broke my heart. There were four of us together this day and as we walked around we saw one man laying on the floor saying, “help, help.” I cornered a C.N.A. and asked if she was going to assist this elderly veteran? Her reply was, “oh that’s John, he does this all the time just to get attention.” She approached him and looked down and said, “If you keep this up I will take you to your room!” (Punishment?) That didn’t set well with any of us. Then we passed a woman sitting in a chair crying. We were told she does that all the time. She just wants attention. Perhaps I am missing something but this didn’t seem right to me. My wife went over and touched her hand and asked if she was OK. She looked up and smiled and stopped crying. We visited with her for a while. She was fine when we continued on.

PTSD can come from many things but in all cases it is so very sad. We all need to be aware when someone is reaching out. Depression is not necessarily a part of aging although some of us have difficulty as the body becomes more and more limited. It can be very difficult for some who remember the day vividly. No one takes aging without some sort of a fight. In any case, depression, or PTSD, can begin at any age. We don’t necessarily come from the battlefield with it. It can start later in dreams, memories or from snapshots in time. This often occurs when an individual finds they have time on their hands and they have never been able to fill empty spaces. Examples: golf, music and other hobbies they acquired over time. It’s not uncommon to see an 85-year-old on the golf course. It’s even more wonderful if the wife/husband has the same longevity and does these things together. Others are not as lucky unless they have a support group which helps fill in the voids.

Advocating for a vet is a very rewarding thing to do. They have a need and you have something to contribute to their well being. When you deal with an open heart and do your due diligence to understand, you could be that vets redemption on this side of heaven. Every aging veteran with no significant other or support group are the ones at serious risk. It doesn’t take much at all to be an advocate. Veterans need a voice and companionship. It’s all a matter of attitude and the desire to fill your life by consuming the holes (voids) which lie with others. Also, it can leave you with a wonderful feeling.

The joy of giving ones time to another can become a life saving bond. I know it makes me feel great to aid another with something I possess. Some church groups are aware of this and do outreach. Often times the veteran doesn’t know how to ask for help. Being alone and feeling disenfranchised is a very lonely place to be. The Veterans Administration has access to many programs which can help heal and fulfill the veteran’s woes. It’s just a matter of the person in need arriving at the correct place at the correct time.

Yes, things are tough right now so that would make this a perfect time to lend a helping hand. The Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255 if you find a veteran in distress. Don’t pass by. Remember, it is not what you take with you, it’s what you have left behind. God Bless and God Bless America!

VETERANS CORNER: Phase3 at Togus should have more hands-on and face-to-face communication with veterans

Veterans Affairs Regional Benefit Office Togus, ME

by Gary Kennedy

Well, here it is my fellow veterans. We are starting into the first of spring. Emotionally, many of us are sighing with relief. Winter is always a hardship for most of us, both veteran and non-veteran. When you’re sick, sore and sorry, a breath of spring does a lot for the emotional side. Also those of us with physical problems suffer from those cold, damp and dark days of winter. The days are short and even nature becomes a strange, unpredictable state of affairs. Attitudes tend to change with the seasons.

As I write this for you, I am looking out my bay window and marveling over the number of birds and other wildlife which have come to visit our feeders. There are so many birds that I am unfamiliar with. However, they are all beautiful and sing and play for my entertainment.

It is really worth the price of the feed. For you newcomers the animals and birds appreciate the food and grow to depend on it. So once you begin this in the fall you need to remember that many of them have remained because you have cared for them. I have seen four Canada Geese land at Togus pond, beside the new hospitality house. We crossed paths with one very eager groundhog and a skunk that sprayed my yard, so now we must pray for rain. Soon we will plant our garden on paper, rotate all and prepare for seed. The hope is we will be able to get some of the time sensitive plants as soon as after the last frost, which may be very early this year. Maine, however, is a tricky state and I have jumped the gun before. That always requires a rethink.

Veterans’ cases are extremely slow and the process and accessibility to VA becomes ever exceedingly difficult. Almost all employees have been vaccinated. I heard there was a slight slow down due to the lack of the supply of vaccine. According to Togus official’s phase three will begin next month and that should speed up the solution of some pending cases which have gone beyond nine months. If it does not, then there are some of us who are prepared to put pressure on the powers that be.

At Togus, for those who don’t know, we have Tracy Davis and hidden in the back ground, Ryan Lilly. With a new president we are handicapped as he says one thing and does another on most issues. He claims to be 100 percent for the veterans and claims great respect for them. However, from a veteran’s point of view we are suffering greatly. All that had been achieved was removed in the first 30 days. We need to worry about this state of affairs.

We all watch the news and depression is beginning to settle in nationally. The world is watching and many of us feel ashamed and worry about all vets and the greatest country in the world. It didn’t take us long to get this terrible feeling of helplessness. We have never been challenged until recently and now Russia wants to debate our president and China stated, on international news the other night that we weren’t in any position in any way shape or manner to be giving orders to anyone. China’s spokesperson told our spokesperson at the Alaska Accords to just mind our own business. China never had the courage to speak to us in that manner since I’ve been alive. My time on this earth is getting very short and I give 150 percent even in a very disabled condition to our veterans. However, the problems we face are going beyond the individual. Many veterans need our help but our country as a whole even more so. I am too old to learn Mandarin. It’s now time for all of us to be paying attention and speak to our officials about our concerns. We need to stand strong and resolute in order to hold what we have together. Our government is at war with itself. Russia and China are just licking their chops. Remember this is a country of “we the people.”

As I understand it, phase3 at Togus should have more hands-on and face-to-face communication with veterans. Veterans have noticed the security barriers at all entrances which were temporary at first but now have taken on the aura of permanency. What is the purpose for this? For my 47 years in and around Togus all worked fine without this new security measure and its expense. It doesn’t feel like home to many vets. It seems to be a lock out which was conveniently placed during the pandemic. There are so many things that VA needs such as operating rooms and equipment.

On the VBA side there should be more case movement and outreach, just to name a few. Also, what about physical therapy? There was some great need and things getting done in the gym and swimming pool. These places almost take care of themselves. I was in the middle of therapy there when it was shutdown. I don’t know if my and other vets losses can be made up. I will wait until the next phase to see if these things are available. If not I will start writing to the Secretary of VA and beyond if necessary.

Those who are taking these things away are not Wounded Warriors so they don’t feel as we disabled vets feel. The Togus VA is very unique being it’s the first VA, so of course, the oldest going back to 1866, and it has a gym and an Olympic sized pool. Our VA has a lot to offer. We just have to make it available.

An accounting of funding is also something we need to watch. With 500 acres we should be able to be the largest VA Hospital/Admin facility in the nation. Also another pet peeve that some of us have is turning the nature of the VA system into a homeless habitat. That hasn’t worked at other facilities so Mr. Lilly’s so-called idea is not unique. There are plenty of places to shelter homeless vets without interfering with the true VA mission.

May God be with those of us who remain to face tomorrow and God bless this unique country and the way of life it has allowed.

NEWS FROM THE VA: Vaccines available at the VA; and some pet peeves

Veterans Affairs Regional Benefit Office Togus, ME

by Gary Kennedy

Greetings my fellow veterans and friends. After many years of service, on the positive side, I find myself smitten by the need to allow some of the negatives I have been made aware of by phone, text and face to face conversations. Most of what I take in from others I must share, “pet peeves”, as well as general information for all to hear and disseminate to others in need. Before I say things that some of you don’t want to hear, let me try and answer one of our associate writers of The Town Line’s questions from last week’s issue. As I have shared myself through The Town Line for many years, now most of you know much about me. For those of you who don’t, I am a 100 percent disabled, service-connected disabled American veteran who spends most of his time helping other veterans with their V.A. related problems. Also, I try very hard to stay up with current events and share what I research with others to whom it may apply.

Debbie Walker, in last week’s I’m Just Curious article, spoke a lot about Covid-19 and the ever elusive vaccine that Moderna has introduced to the world and in this case, Maine. I can offer a few things that I am aware of, and you or Debbie can follow it up. For those of you who don’t live near the Togus V.A. facility or are not veterans, there are several things you may not be aware of. The first is the Veterans Administration has been giving out thousands of doses of the Covid vaccine to elderly veterans; those vets who are over 75 years of age. First in line were the veterans with serious comorbidities such as asthma and/or emphysema. In both of these cases the bronchi and /or air sacks in the lungs are damaged. This being said you can see the “why” of these cases being first on the list. Covid goes for the respiratory system in a big way. The health caregivers are at the top of the list as well for very obvious reasons. Without them remaining healthy the remainder of us wouldn’t stand much of a chance.

I hear that CVS Pharmacy and Walmart Pharmacy will be joining the team in the administration of the Moderna vaccine in the near future. Remember two injections must be given four weeks apart, to defeat this airborne virus. Travel is very complicated to anywhere in the world as the quarantine rules differ from one place to another. It’s much safer to have gotten both injections before planning any journey. In the case of veterans, you can call 623-8411 Ext. 4949 or 4947 for appointments. For general information on a day-by-day info search use the Website ( Also you can call public information at 623-8411 Ext. 2969. By all means share this information with others. It actually helps not only veterans but others to connect for appointments. This in turn helps others and helps our state stay on top of the ladder.

Now for some “pet peeves” that I have been avoiding but find it necessary to share. I have been part of this research myself. Most information I receive I follow up by testing the data myself. It has been brought to the attention of business as well as individuals that some wonderful benefits are being abused. The number one item I hear about is pets being allowed into, grocery stores, hospitals, etc. There are places that animals should not be allowed; no matter how much an individual may love them. Animals can carry harmful things to places of food supplies. Also, it should be obvious to most of us; areas that have sterile and aseptic environments are breached by our pets. A few years back we began a caregiver program for the military which allowed “Service Dogs” which were trained and certified as companions for the veterans who were blind or nearly so as well as PTSD patients. It seems this has evolved in a ridiculous way. Some people carry French poodles, cats and various other animals. This is beginning to cause problems for those with a real medical/emotional need. There are even many people who are allergic to some animals. This has forced some businesses to post signs that state, “Service Dogs only.” If you think about it there are reasons why animals are being barred from planes and places where sanitary conditions must be strictly enforced. If you haven’t seen a picture of pet dander then perhaps you should research it. It’s not pleasant.

Last but certainly not least. There are those who illegally take handicapped parking spots. Also some doctors give out handicapped letters for state licensing use which allow some, not only close to destination parking but negates the legitimate parking of those with a real handicap. I have tested this on several occasions and I must admit some people really disgust me. Also, it’s illegal. (The handicapped person must be in the vehicle). Some handicap permits are used to avoid fees, taxes; again illegal and unfair. Because you’re fat and /or elderly it doesn’t mean you need to take advantage of handicap privilege. You are doing both yourself and those truly handicapped a disservice. Exercise will help keep the old ticker strong. Do yourself a favor and take a walk. Do the truly handicapped person a favor and allow them to shop. Their world is smaller than yours. There are many ways to show love and respect. If you think of each other as family our days will find so much fulfillment and satisfaction. A healthy glow on ones face is the best sleeping pill one can imagine. “Things are tough right now for all of us but doing the right thing is the right thing to do.” Remember someday you will be there as well. God bless and have a safe, thoughtful, considerate and wonderful day.

VETERANS CORNER: Veterans who qualify should contact the VA for vaccine appointments

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

Well here we are again. Most of us especially veterans thought it would be over in Washington by now but much to our dismay politicians are still planning and plotting ways to get the upper hand in one way or another. The Biden entrance exam is under way with stimulus that makes some of us lust and others to drool for more. It seems the big issue is does a previous $600 stimulus plus a new $1,400 stimulus add up to the $2,000, some believe promised, of course, the debt accrual over the long haul is not being considered. Some don’t even care; just give me the money. There is no easy way to give a stimulus to those in need only. There are many people of means who will receive and keep that money as well. Of course, taxes have to go up and some programs have to be shutdown. Veterans watch this very closely as they know what can happen when the country and world are placed in desperate situations.

In case you haven’t been watching the world has been mobilizing while we play partisan politics; a dangerous oversight of reality, I use veterans in particular as they are always on alert when it comes to threats to our country. So if you haven’t been paying meaningful attention there are powers that be out there that are mobilizing in a very serious way. We should be hanging our head is shame. In our arrogance we boast world superiority when it comes to military might. We shouldn’t be so careless. India has just purchased 80 fighter aircraft from the Russians. That’s a lot of sky power. Iran says they can go nuclear now. We thought we had N. Korea at bay but we are finding out that they may have purchased nuclear weapons instead of making them. China has built a powerful base in the Sprattle Islets which actually belongs to the Philippines, but President Duterte says, “what can I do?” The Chinese are too powerful to argue with. Taiwan is a target of China which we need to defend and it seems that the agreement between England and Hong Kong has been broken. If we throw in the Covid-19 problem we are super extended. Who will side with us when all is said and done? It seems we aren’t loved nor feared as once was the case. We might need the second amendment.

Then in all of this we have the President Trump report card. The political parties argue over how much he did and how much can others claim. We are still trying for the second time to impeach. I personally am ashamed of what we have become. I pray that we get it straight soon. The politicians are now fighting over who gets the credit for the vaccine. It hasn’t been given out fast enough some are saying. I heard on the news this morning that one of the western states and Florida are the best states for distribution. I would argue with that as I have been watching Maine and especially the VA Center at Togus Maine which has been giving thousands of doses of Moderna out already.

The caregivers at Togus are complete and many elderly with comorbidities have received the vaccine. There have been lines for two weeks, many elderly vets have been called and appointments given. If you are elderly, especially with comorbidities and you haven’t been called then you need to contact your primary caregivers’ office. Obviously, the vaccine is given out in the order of established need. If you’re a veteran contact the VA center at 623-8411 and push “0”. Ask for advice on vaccine. If you are 100 percent disabled with other serious issues, waste no time.

God bless you and yours and a little extra for bringing us together.

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

VETERANS CORNER: I always admire the night sky

by Gary Kennedy

Ah! Here it is the first week of January and all will turn back to normal soon. The presidential election is over and the race in Georgia for control of the Senate has been decided. The results of these two events will guide this country for the next four years. A few veterans are happy with these outcomes but I fear the result and the road to that result has left disappointment and a sour taste in many mouths. This has certainly been the meanest presidential run in my life time. I pray for our country, our veterans and all that have suffered through this entire ordeal. Many have died needlessly and many small, struggling businesses have perished as well.

We all have our vote. I, for one, hope that we all followed our conscience and good judgment and that the outcome will lead to a successful term. I use to be a strict party person, now I try to read the heart, soul and potential benefit to all my military brothers and sisters as well as their families and those they serve. We are all in this together, so we can’t turn our love for one another on and off organizationally.

As a Maine native, and a former soldier, I have grown faster than the dollar and have grown to realize that the worth of a person far outweighs the value of the ever declining dollar. I have spent the past many years giving back throughout the world, all that I can, and trying to heal some of life’s wounds that I carry, by helping others avoid some of these things.

At night I always admire the night sky as it is the only thing that darkness enlightens. It’s a blackboard of wondrous creation. I’m sure many of you carry the same thoughts with you. The night sky is the most beautiful parchment one could ever possibly find and that which is adorned on it is the greatest art work ever conceived. I am now sure each beautiful sparkle has meaning and many of us strive to be part of the artist’s loving hand. It makes me think of the “house of many mansions.” My wish for this New Year is that we all take a moment to look around, see the wonders but at the same time realize there are many needs. If we selfishly address them, then we will be promoting chaos. When we search the sky we do not see disarray or instability, it’s only when we look here.

It’s true that not all that hold their hands out are in need but I suggest that those who do are among them. Make 2021 a year of consideration and just assume that those who bare their pride just might be in pain. Remember it’s not what we take with us but what we leave behind.

Covid-19 has been a nightmare of massive proportion for most of us but it has also brought us together in many ways. We and the world have developed new medicines which lead to the stimulation of the human brain and its ability to overcome adversity. Often this will bring about adjuncts of various sorts. Many medicines have been precursors to other important discoveries. I think people tend to become lazy and need to be stimulated once in a while. Stimulus checks certainly are helpful in maintaining a course on a temporary level but does not incentivize one to move forward. I believe when thought out most of us would agree.

Many of you are probably not aware that the Togus VA began their vaccine distribution last week. All of the employees are currently receiving this vaccine as well as in house patients. Next should be the totally disabled veterans that come and go through the V.A. doors. I believe by the start of summer the elderly, disabled and caregivers will be finished and the remaining population will receive theirs. So, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

So in conclusion, I personally want to thank all the men and women health caregivers who have placed themselves in harms way and made great sacrifices both to themselves and their family and friends. We can all learn a great lesson from all those who served on the frontline, in particular the scientists who develop these miraculous vaccines. Also, without partisan implication, I believe we can thank President Trump for his Warp Speed reaction to this terrible deadly threat to the USA and the world. Normally, it requires years to find and approve a drug such as this for use.

First and foremost, we are Americans as well as part of the human race. We do these things for the love of human kind and the earth that is but one sparkle on that parchment of the night sky. God Bless and have a very Happy New Year.

VETERANS CORNER: VA Togus partially re-opens to veterans

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

Well, here we are again, my friends and fellow vets. Not much time has gone by but I have been presented with many questions and problems. It seems that the online conferencing which no one seems to know about isn’t going too great.

As of September 21 the VA Togus has partially opened to veterans. This should make some of you happy. However, for the time being VA is only accepting veterans by appointment. That is the same on both the medical and administrative sides. Also, some of the service organizations such as VFW, DAV and American Legion are following suit. Of course, you will have to be examined at the door, hand sanitizing and masks are required. Ward visitation is still limited. If you would like to speak to a service organization or a particular ward call 207-623-8411, 0. Zero will give you a live operator and they will transfer your call from a 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. On Friday I would suggest calling a little early for the obvious reasons. If you need benefits information or to make an appointment to see a counselor at VBA you can use my secret number of 207-621-6938. The reason you pay me the big bucks is for information like this.

Now I will try to answer some of the big questions: Is emergency open? The answer is Yes, but remember if you have a medical emergency dial 911.

Is the store and lunch room open? The answer is Yes, but you still have to go through screening if you are coming in off the street.

Can I file a claim? The answer again is Yes. You can use the Myhealthyvet app, or you can make an appointment using the number I have supplied above and make an appointment with a claims representative. Some of us aren’t comfortable doing it on our own, so the experts are still taking appointments, these men and women are the backbone of the VA system, and for the most part are vets who really want to help you. Don’t ever be afraid to ask as it would only be you who would lose. These folks have changed the lives of many vets in need. They have heard and seen it all. You can even get a free pen.

Next, and a very important issue to so many, I went out of the comfort of my home to a little research. This is a very contentious issue between me and VA. It is my opinion that areas such as rehabilitation are not doing their job. It is my opinion that those in the know are not dealing with many issues in a pragmatic manner. I decided to visit some of the rehab areas around Augusta and found that most rehab centers were dealing with this pandemic in a very pragmatic way. I visited both YMCAs and they were functioning in an almost normal day to day manner. It is my understanding that if you need what the “Y” offers, you should speak to your PCP and ask for an outside membership. If it is something that you require in your medical regimen, V.A. will pay for your membership. Don’t give up on your daily need without asking one of us for some direction. It may be available to you.

There are some serious issues coming down the pike like, why are doctors refusing to take me on? Not all of the beauty of Veteran’s Choice stands the test of validity. Until four to five months ago doctors were enjoying a full fee based position. Well such is not the case anymore. None of the politicians seem to be aware that physician fees have been severely cut to the point of contention between the veterans. Physician fees have been cut between 35 – 51 percent of the original billed fee. So doctors are more and more refusing to take veterans. This problem is going to grow and affect many veterans. I currently have a letter out to President Trump. I don’t think he is even aware of this new problem. I am not sure if this is an isolated problem with Tracye Davis, Ryan Lilly or all the way to National Director, Secretary Robert Wilkie. In any case I will find the answer and let you know.

This makes me as angry as it does you. I, like you, rely upon some outside doctors. This indicates to me that we will soon be reverting to our previous way of doing things. I always felt it was too good to be true. I was just informed that a previous doctor wouldn’t see me anymore because of this fee problem. So, for me to get similar care that I need, I will have to go to New Hampshire. VA will pay for it but I believe that the difference in cost between my current doctor and a new one in New Hampshire is going to be negligible, when they add in travel. A six-hour drive round trip is not a good program by a long shot. I expect to be hearing more from our vets in short order.

In these trying times many of us are pinching pennies. I know I have. My wife and I are very fond of canned Spam. It’s not considered top of the line but we like the low salt variety. Well, let this be a warning to you. Recently my wife and I purchased several cans to keep as reserve. My wife opened one yesterday and it was blue inside both on the meat as well as the upper lid of the can. We wrapped it in plastic and refrigerated it. We have contacted the company and we will inform the store. We also took photos of the product and looked it up on the computer. The Chinese have a 40 percent ownership in both Hormel and Smithfield pork products. I don’t know about you but I become worried when communist countries buy into our food supply. I will let you know how this turns out.

Be ever vigilant my friends. Perhaps we all need to have a conversation with our leaders. We took photos of this product and its barcode. Be safe to you and yours and God bless.