The people gathering signatures for a casino in southern Maine have not been told about LD 1280 — a legal piece of legislation to have a resort casino in southern Maine, which will provide a $14 million dollar cascade to help veterans in Maine. It was so confusing to all the people who stopped me at the Topsham and Brunswick Post Office, Shaw’s in Brunswick and other places around town to tell me they signed my petition. Folks, don’t worry about it and there is no need to apologize to me. I understand how you were mislead. Let’s just hope our Legislators will pass LD 1280 — a win-win for all of us.

A busy week in Augusta

On Jan. 11, the commission to strengthen and align the services provided to Maine’s veterans held their fifth and final meeting. This committee reported many positive findings that will help the veterans community, especially the Bureau of Veteran Services:

• Veterans housing (homelessness).

• Many issues concerning Veteran Service Officers (VSO).

• Explore creating a network of community based transportation services utilizing trained veteran drivers.

• Many issues dealing with mental health — 40 percent of veterans in Maine are seeking mental health care services, to meet that need a comprehensive inpatient treatment facility in Maine is required (closest one is in Massachussets). Too many veterans are placed on waiting lists for receipt of mental health care. The lack of a VA supported inpatient mental health facility leaves countless veterans without critical psychiatric care.

• Made recommendations to help Maine veterans with education. VA should not be able to collect a debt resulting from a VA overpayment error from a student veteran while they are still a student and living on the VA education benefit.

• The rate of unemployment is higher as it applies to veterans in Maine, than non-veterans. Currently unemployed is 8.5 percent of the veterans population.

• 10-12 percent of veterans aged 18-30 are unemployed.

• The are benefits to employing veterans which should be communicated to employers.

• Approximately 3 percent of veterans use available Federal Vocational Rehabilitation services, while 20 percent are eligible. The program sees a 76 percent success rate.

• “Maine Hire a Vet Campaign,” introduced by Gov. Lepage and First Lady Ann and Director of Veteran Services, Adrea Horn in September 2015, reports the following statistics: Julie Rabinowitz, Director of Policy, Operations and Communications, Maine reports that as of Jan. 12, there were 135 participating employers who hired 250 veterans. The average wages of those hired is $17.63 per hour. The highest wage was $50.48 per hour. We have employers participating from all 16 counties of Maine. The official final count will be reported on 18 Jan. 2016. There are still a few in the hiring pipeline.

A Commanders Call was held on Jan. 12 with Gov. LePage. The governor reported on the military retirement pension — income tax relief, also veteran priorities in hiring, housing, VA debt repayment. Also, new Aide De Camps Ronald Rainfrette, American Legion, Gerald Francis, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Jerry DeWitt, American Veterans all heard reports from Temporary

Adjutant, General Brig. Gen. Gerard Bolduc and Adj. Gen. nominee, Col. Douglas Farnum. A discussion about the Father LeClair Memorial Chapel at the Veterans Cemetery in Augusta followed. The chapel is not habitable (because of mold) and needs to be replaced and funding is needed.

Electric Bill Resource

Marty Diller, Mid-Coast Veterans Council Advisor, reported the following: Rich Kowalcyzk, while working with a client, learned of a fairly unknown program. If an individual owes more than $500 on their electric bill, they will be able to take advantage of the Arrears Management Program through CMP. If you are behind on your electric bills then the Arrears Management Program (AMP) may be able to help you wipe out what you owe. The AMP can also work with you to see if there are some free or cheap ways to reduce the amount of electricity you use. For more info on this program call the Resource Center at (207) 406-4103.

Other news

• The American Legion State Legislative Committee will caucus with State Legislators , who are veterans, this week.

• Post 20, American Legion will hold their next meeting on Jan. 27 at the Post Home.

• Post 20 is planning for the annual Four Chaplains Ceremony, Feb. 7. It will be held at the Post Home on Columbus Drive. Fr. Bud Welch (USN, retired) will be guest chaplain.

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Chick Ciciotte is the legislative chairperson for the Mid-Coast Veterans Council. He lives in Topsham.



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