AUGUSTA — The call to serve is not heard or answered by everyone. In fact, less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has worn a service uniform. For the few who made the selfless decision to raise their right hand in defense of our nation, they did so for a host of reasons. Some sought to honor a line of family tradition; others fulfilled what they felt was their patriotic duty. There are those who volunteered to take part in something bigger than themselves, and many who were looking for greater opportunities both during and after their time in service.

On this Veterans Day, no matter the reason you chose to join the U.S. military, the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services thanks you for your service. We also want you to know, it is our time to serve you.

Too often we hear veterans tell us they haven’t accessed earned benefits because their brothers or sisters in arms may be more deserving. There is an inherent fear that by filing a claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, they are taking resources away from a veteran who may be more injured or who may be in more of a need. But this idea is incorrect. In fact, the more veterans who make themselves known to the VA Maine Healthcare System, the more funds will be allocated to our state and our veterans. By filing a claim, you are helping your fellow veterans by showing there is a greater need for resources in Maine.

The Maine Bureau of Veteran’ Services has worked closely with our community partners across the state to address and solve critical issues facing our veterans. Whether working to find permanent housing for veterans in need or assisting with access to needed mental health services, Maine’s veteran advocacy community has worked tirelessly on behalf of our service members and their families.

Recently, you may have heard the call to action for suicide prevention and awareness or read about the work being done to eradicate veteran homelessness in Maine. While these issues have been a focal point for the bureau over the past few months, we stand ready to provide a wide array of benefits and services to the roughly 114,000 veterans who call Maine home. It is critically important that you take advantage of them, not just because you have earned them, but also because your fellow veterans are counting on you.

With six field offices located across the state, and a claims office at the VA Maine Healthcare System at Togus, we have the privilege of connecting with veterans from all branches and every period of service. Over the years, we’ve had the honor of listening to your stories, and we take a great deal of pride in walking you through the process of claiming the benefits that are owed to you. Although we have connected with thousands of veterans from Fort Kent to Kittery, we know there are thousands more who we have not yet had the honor of meeting.

Unfortunately, the concern over resources isn’t the only hurdle the bureau has in connecting with Maine’s veterans – many former service members don’t consider themselves to be veterans at all, which is why we’ve changed the way we “ask the question.” Instead of asking “Are you a veteran?” we now ask “Have you served in the U.S. military?” Thousands of Maine veterans wore a service uniform, but may have served in a time of peace. Or maybe they served in a time of war, but did not see combat. Whatever your time in service looked like, if you raised your right hand, please give us a call or stop by one of our offices to speak with a veteran services officer.

The Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services is committed to serving our veteran population in the most efficient and respectful manner possible. We lead by example to honor our veterans’ legacies of service, and it is our duty to give you the best support and care we can provide.

On behalf of our staff at the bureau, and the citizens of the great state of Maine, thank you for your service and thank you for your sacrifice.

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