Michaud seeks answers to L-A veterans' questions

LEWISTON — Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, has joined a growing list of local veterans searching for answers from the Veterans Administration regarding its soon-to-open local clinic.

April 19, 2012

Dr. Michael F. Mayo-Smith, M.D., M.P.H.


VA New England Healthcare System (VISN 1)

200 Springs Road, Building No. 61

Bedford, MA 01730

Dear Dr. Mayo-Smith:

I am writing to inquire about the reduction in promised specialty care services at the Lewiston Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). Specifically, my understanding is that a new process is being used to determine what services are made available at VA locations.

At the groundbreaking for the Lewiston CBOC in April 2011, my staff and the public were informed that this new clinic will be offering a wide variety of health care services, including a number of specialty services. My staff has since been informed that some specialty services, such as those for hearing and vision, will no longer be offered and that the Lewiston CBOC would be dedicated to the following services: primary care, mental health, radiology, home-based primary care and pharmacy services.

While all these services are extremely valuable and needed, I request that you provide me with detailed information on the new justification process that is used to determine availability of services at VA locations. In addition, I’d specifically like to know:

What are the criteria used in this new process and the justifications used in the specific case of the Lewiston CBOC? Why were these criteria applied to the Lewiston CBOC after construction had begun and a commitment to specialty service had been made? Is this new process applied to all CBOCs throughout the country or just VISN 1? Will efforts be made to offer these previously promised specialty services at the Lewiston CBOC, perhaps on a weekly or monthly basis, as has been done in other areas?

Local veterans who will be served by the Lewiston CBOC have expressed concerns with the reduced services, and I share their frustrations. The lack of official information about the decision process has deepened the confusion, and I hope your answers to these questions will clarify the situation.

Thank you for your consideration of my request. I appreciate your assistance on this matter, and please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.


Michael H. Michaud

Member of Congress

The congressman has sent a letter to the head of the VA in New England, Dr. Michael F. Mayo-Smith, asking for an explanation why some services — particularly hearing and vision care — have been erased from the Lewiston clinic's plans.

"Local veterans who will be served by the Lewiston community-based outreach clinic have expressed concerns with the reduced services, and I share their frustrations," Michaud wrote in the letter, dated April 19. "The lack of official information about the decision process has deepened the confusion, and I hope your answers to these questions will clarify the situation."

His letter asked why the plans for the clinic weren't decided before the public groundbreaking last April, when "a commitment to specialty service" was made. He also wanted to know if some offerings might be made on a part-time basis.

On Friday, the letter hadn't arrived, VA spokeswoman Kathleen Cosgrove Makela said. A copy of Michaud's letter was forwarded to Makela from the Sun Journal.

"We will be happy to respond to the congressman once we receive the letter," she said. "Access is a top priority for the secretary and the entire Department of Veterans Affairs, and we are very pleased that the new Lewiston-Auburn clinic will bring services closer to the veterans who need them."

On Tuesday, Ryan Lilly, Togus's associate medical director, said that hearing and vision services will instead be offered in Bangor's VA clinic, where they can reach more people who must drive even further than veterans in Lewiston-Auburn. It will be the closest VA center for those services for people in both Calais and Caribou.

Veterans have worked for about seven years to bring the clinic to Lewiston.

The Department of Veterans Affairs originally intended the facility to be built in the Brunswick area, but veterans lobbied the VA and Maine's congressional delegation to bring it to the Twin Cities, instead. They argued that more veterans would be helped by placing the clinic in Lewiston. Michaud picked up the argument and lobbied the VA.

In February 2010, the VA committed $20 million for a long-term lease on the specially built clinic. Construction began last fall.

The clinic is located at 15 Challenger Drive, just off Alfred Plourde Parkway and a short distance from exit 80 of the Maine Turnpike. The property is owned by Maine Veterans Homes, which plans to build an adult day care center beside the clinic.

The new 29,000-square-foot clinic in Lewiston won't be seeing large numbers of patients for about another two months, Lilly said.

"Teamlets" of health care workers — consisting of a physician, a nurse, a clerk and a health technician — are getting ready for the move to Lewiston, he said. But preparations need to be made for the patients they are leaving and the ones they are taking on. Appointments need to be made and the infrastructure in Lewiston needs to be solid.

Jerry DeWitt, one of the veterans who worked to bring the clinic to Lewiston, said Friday he was pleased by Michaud's action, particularly in response to the reduction in services.

"They were trying to slip it by us without telling anybody," DeWitt said of the VA.


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FRANK EARLEY's picture

I hope they will finally get the message

My father is a veteran, he deserves and receives the help he needs. He's fortunate that the veterans hospital is fairly close to his house. He lives out of state. Up until about five years ago, he was very active for years in the retrieval, and restoration of the last Navel LST still functional in the world. I'm not totally sure but I think its on display as a museum in Alabama. The History Channel did a special on it. Most of the guys that accomplished this incredible feat, were ww2 vets themselves.
I think that more than shows the pride and determination these guys, most of which were in their late seventies to early eighties, have for their service.
I just feel that for any government board or State politician to deny these guys easy access to all the benefits they need is totally wrong. A lot of these guys did their time and then some, they've earned it.

Roger J Stavitz's picture

Speaking as a Democrat, but thinking bipartisan!

First of all, I must admit I always vote Democratic. But many Republicans do great things for veterans, and the elder statesman, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector always did great things for veterans, as I remember him helping us out when I was attending a VET CENTER in Philadelphia back in 1981.

I do vote for Mike Michaud, and because his area of interest is veterans, I am one of his fans, being a Vietnam Veteran. I go out of my way to vote for him, and really like his robo calling service on the day of the election, which reminds me to get out and vote (as sometimes I am depressed, in a fog, or in one case, went to the town office to cast a special ballot for a special election after his robo call). So obviously, I have some prejudice.

That being said, I think that many congressmen and women from both sides of the aisle, and in Maine, the many independent politicians who get elected, try to help veterans. But in politics, there is only so much you can do.

Notice it took George Bush six months to move 500,000 American troops plus countless Arab countries in to the border with Kuwait for Operation Dessert Storm, which took about a two months to come to a bloody conclusion, complete with burning oil derricks. Yet veterans can often wait a lifetime for help, and sometimes that lifetime can be awful short, because many vets don't get the help they deserve.

And after serving in THE NAM, and watching this last ten year debacle, I can’t see the difference between Lyndon Johnson and George Bush, and the war policy of Richard Nixon and Barrack Obama? Well, they seem the same to me. The older I get, the more it all seems like BREAD AND CIRCUS.

I don't think that is because one is a Republican or a Democrat, but merely because there is lack of public will.

Wishing all veterans, even those with less than honorable discharges, good luck and good health, because we sure deserve it. Most people don’t even try the military, and I think it’s a very hard way to serve your country, and I admire all veterans for that reason.

David Marsters's picture

L-A Veteran center

I am a veteran and use the service and I was informed that all services were being transfered to Lewiston. I have eye problems and hearing problems. I thought this would be great as I live in Sabattus and would be close for appointments. Now I understand that eye and hearing are going to Bangor for appointments? Or am I reading this wrong. Will I get mileage for this Mr Machaud. Wake up and smell the coffee. I know you will have the best benefits when you leave office as you aren't being reelected.

Richard Begin's picture

L&A Veterans Question

Yes Steve Dosh that was Quite the Letter.

However one would tend to think Mr Michaud would have been the first to Cry Foul. After all I am under the impression that his office staff tend to Brag that his dedication to the veterans is his 'Stock & Trade'

That said

I would have Fully expected the Congressman to have held a Press Event in front of his Loiston Office to lead the Investigation.
Mike Michaud a Real Nice Guy but as we have seen countless times a little slow on the Draw.

Or Maybe he just does not enjoy the access to our President as did his Predecessor Mr Baldacci. Some times real Leadership is a required Talent and as we have witness too mant time to start counting.

Congressman Michaud has failed to exhibit such leadership.

Of course he and John E Baldacci also had a tough assignment to fill Olympia' J Snowes' Shoes.When Olympia was in Congress and a Representative in the Second District 'She Led" By Example' where Congressman Michaud leads when told to


FRANK EARLEY's picture

My fathers a veteran

My father is getting up there in age. One thing I can say unequivocally, As he got older his hearing started to go and although he had eye problems all his life, like a lot of us will find out. with age comes more eye problems.
Notice I said eye problems as apposed to vision problems. Well also with age came the problem of keeping his glasses in one piece.
He had problems, especially with talking on the phone. Sometimes it was like we were having two different conversations at the same time.
At the age of eighty five or so he was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease. That greatly diminished his mobility.
He lives out of state, but within fairly easy driving distance for his wife to get him there. They provided surgery to correct his vision, for the first time in his life,and also worked with him to come up with hearing aids that worked best for his particular situation.
Proximity is everything. no one like my father should have to travel an hour plus to get help, especially if numerous return visits are needed. I think its very unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game. This also show a huge lack of forethought and planning.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Michaud seeks answers to L-A veterans' questions

all 12.04.20 19:00 hst •
That's a thoughtful letter he wrote . Seems like St Mary's or C M C C could fill the void somehow too , huh ? http://vhv-vetshelpingvets.com/ h t h ? Steve

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

What could CMCC possibly do

What could CMCC possibly do for ailing Veterans?


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