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.


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