September 30, 2013

Letters to the Editor: Veteran: Access to VA care 'a godsend'

Having recently received great service at the Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center, I write to say, "Thanks."

click image to enlarge

Patients wait in the waiting room at the Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center in a 2007 file photo. Though the VA system has its shortcomings, those employed by the system do their jobs with pride and dedication, a reader says.

2007 File Photo/John Ewing

In 1979, I joined the Navy. I wasn't a patriot. I just needed a job. My father and older brother went Navy, so I went Navy.

I worked hard, made rank and helped my shipmates advance. But I was too young and rebellious to serve with distinction, so I was discharged honorably, but prematurely.

Today I've received my paperwork updating my VA health care status. For a vet like me with no service-related injuries, the VA offers efficient basic health care -- a godsend these days when self-employed persons like myself work double time to buy coverage at all.

Our taxpayers fund this benefit; so does the sacrifice of those working for the VA. From the doctors down to those answering the phones, all work with pride while being paid less than their commercial counterparts, to serve us veterans.

We know that VA medicine faces challenges and criticism. The system was unprepared for the number and severity of the casualties from Afghanistan and Iraq. The backlog of care for which the wounded wait every day is disgraceful.

While military and industrial computerization is state of the art, the VA's systems are decades old. Veterans' post-traumatic stress disorder issues, joblessness and homelessness demand solutions. But they're working the problems, doing what they can with dedication.

I'm thankful that President Obama has asked Congress every year to increase spending for Veterans Affairs, and Congress has agreed.

I'll meet my primary care physician soon, paying the co-pays asked of me, who served so briefly and emerged whole. I want to stay healthy to watch my own son, serving today in the Navy, become a thankful vet like me, receiving the benefits of his great nation.

Mark Minervino


Well-funded critics fighting South Portland ordinance

Matt Byrne's article about South Portland's citizen initiative ("Rival camps dig in on South Portland waterfront zoning," Sept. 15) quotes a city councilor saying this is going to be a "fair fight."

He then describes the opposition's six-figure budget, its team of professional advisers and media consultants, its glossy direct-mail and robocalling initiatives, its radio, print and television ads and, of course, its lawyers -- from Maine's biggest firms and beyond.

This is the army lined up against volunteers who plan to spend their Saturdays and Sundays walking the city, knocking on doors, armed only with facts and their unremunerated concern. I question which aspects of this match-up strike anyone as balanced.

I am disappointed but not surprised that a special interest with unlimited resources has co-opted small-d democratic rhetoric, using themes like "Working Waterfront Week," forging strategic but shallow allegiances with business owners and presenting voters with a false choice between jobs and community well-being. It is a classic and obvious tactic, but I fear it may be effective on a middle-class economy barely emerging from recession.

The proposed ordinance protects businesses in the affected zone and allows for growth. The petroleum facilities within the zone are the only businesses that would see their permitted uses more thoughtfully defined, and even those uses are protected.

South Portland has encouraged starter homes, elderly housing and a community college to grow in the shadow of the zone under debate. We spent $40 million to make safety improvements at a school that abuts this zone.

Byrne closes with a quote from a business owner who fears the effect of the ordinance on his business: "It could impact the future, for my children and their children, and their abilities in what they can and can't do." Well said: That is exactly the reason to vote for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

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