by Gary Kennedy
Well, here we are in this space and time. Covid-19 is involved in all we say and do. It is true here and it is true in the rest of the world. I have spent the past few months working on projects in Southeast Asia as I usually do. I came home to Covid-19, political unrest, riots and terrorism. This doesn’t set well with me and most veterans who served to avoid living the life of third world countries. Our veterans feel this more than anyone. They fought to keep us free. This is not the definition of freedom.
As you know I work with veterans here, and when I am across the Pacific Ocean I work with veterans there. The American Embassy is massive in Manila, Philippines. A few years ago the USA invested millions of dollars to build, equip and start a very large medical center. They call themselves a clinic so as to be able to avoid some veteran interplay. They have no beds but they have everything else including a dozen or so doctors and a couple of dozen nurses as well as a lab, pharmacy and a modern X-ray department.
Its been a battle since they opened to have them comply to American mandates. Ninety-nine percent of the staff are Asian with only the manager being an American national. I have led the battle on a couple of occasions to maintain veterans’ rights according to American standards. In the pacific we have the Philippines, Guam and the Marshal Islands which service American interests. In 1898 we drove the Spanish out of this area and claimed the Philippines as a territory. Since that time in history we gave the Philippines its freedom but retained strong ties. Most of you don’t know it but we have 350,000 Americans living there in the islands. Many of these are U.S. veterans and their families. The VA there aids the veteran, but unfortunately, the family is not covered. We are trying to work on that now. Medical help is very limited.
We have made a lot of progress on veteran issues worldwide but as great as the politicians would like us to believe they are not getting the work done. My phone both here and there rings a lot. Sometimes I can help immediately but most of the time the requested issues take research development and application. When Senator Olympia Snowe was in office I spent a lot of time there with Bob Cummings working out issues. Bob was a wonderful person with whom to work out veterans issues. I have done a couple of things with Senator Susan Collins’ office but not as much as I would like. The expression “Freedom isn’t Free,” really needs to be realized by those who think that all things are rosey. Those people are ones who usually receive a fat pay check and proclaim, “Don’t mess with the status quo.”
I have lived near the South China Sea and can tell you not all conversations are pro-American. There are forces out there that would love to teach you another language and have you work for $5 a day; that is without any benefits. We are fortunate to live in one of the greatest countries in the world. We need to realize that and not let politics deviate our love of country with complacency. Thanking a vet is a great and wonderful thing but really meaning it is another. Verifying the government’s application of aid is left to your vigilance and watchful eye. We need your help.
Veterans with disabilities aren’t asking for a hand out, only a hand up. Through my eyes, opinion only, we grow ever closer to another war. Being in the South Pacific and my compulsion to watch the news makes me very nervous because of my first hand knowledge to what is going on. Now is the time to take good care of our veterans for they are the example, the bench mark for others to go by. Recruitment is not easy today with America having the highest wage out there. When I tell people in Asia that work at McDonald’s there is $6 a day, and that our people of McDonald’s make $12 to $15 per hour, and some companies even give benefits, they gasp with disbelief. The positive side for third world folks is, even in dispute, they find a way to handle it. They have that old country intellect; make due, find a way.
The U.S currently is doing the veterans a disservice by bragging that we are taking great care of our vets. Even VA has succumbed to be the work-at-home intellect. I had an argument recently with the VA system. A person that is an official at the VA stated that the VA work from home program was working out very well. That made me see fire and brought back memories of my conversations with veterans. I answered this person respectfully even though that statement made this disabled veteran very upset. The person mentioned video conferences were working out surprisingly well. I know several of these work-from-home people and, in my opinion, that program is full of abuse and is very inefficient with only a few exceptions. Just think about medical people staying at home and tending to disabled people. Most disabled veterans that I know need hands-on and serious direction with their health care, the VA needs to be open for our vets. Short of that our vets are being abused.
Currently all physical therapy is shut down. This is one essential that isn’t considered. The pain clinic is in lockdown mode. The chief of the pain clinic isn’t functioning, the chiropractic is not functioning, the acupuncturist is not working, but you can leave a message. Orthopedics is in lock down. Needles needed for knee, hand, back, ankle pain are not being given because of Covid-19. Anything they can call non-essential is not allowed. Unless it is a dire emergency no X-rays, cat scans, MRI’s or other evaluation tools are not being used. In neurology all testing equipment is broken so you have to locate a doctor outside and get permission to go. No dental is being done. Ever had a tooth ache? If your in dire pain physically or emotionally, dial 911. You can’t get through to primary care. They avoid you like the plague. Oh, there are a few exceptions, but very few. Call center has become the norm. Pharmacy makes many mistakes and some employees are curt/rude. Now they are insisting that all prescriptions are to be mailed even if they don’t fit in your box or are restricted. Your scripts might end up in Portland, as mine did and five days late. If you go through the front door you get the fifth degree along with a free face mask and alcohol rub for your hands; not the respect we are use to.
Many calls to departments with answering machines are ignored. I personally have had one neurology appointment way up in Bangor because all the machinery in neurology is broken at Togus. One doctor I know who won’t let his patients down is Dr. Barry Raskin Gastro. I had an appointment because of serious ongoing issues. He examined me and came up with a game plan. I really appreciated that. My primary care physician is a fantastic doctor, but the VA has really given him a heavy load. We do have two neurologist who will refer you out; expensive service.
I just received word the VA will be opening its doors, at least partly, soon, I will keep everyone abreast of that in the next issue of The Town Line. I have had several calls regarding those who need physical therapy. I haven’t received word from the VA yet about the gym and the pool which is where a lot of therapy is received; both monitored and independent. The gym and pool is used recreationally very little these days. This has become a necessary tool with PTSD patients and those with physical afflictions. In my opinion, for strength and well-being emotionally and physically essential.
VA, being built in 1866, has had many faces but the current one is the one that is direly needed by our veterans. It is supposed to serve and should not allow themselves to be used as a political football. Truly give America’s veterans all they deserve. Veterans are advised to make yourselves aware of what is happening in Washington D.C. and address yourself accordingly. Do not be awed by the accolades being bestowed upon you with political agendas. You know who and what you are and what you have given. You don’t need to be told because someone is waving a political banner. You have every reason to be proud and deserving of respect for what you have given for your love ones and your country.
God be with you and yours; One veteran to another. Thank you for your service. God Bless!
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