LEWISTON — A variety of agencies that help veterans, including the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services, will soon be keeping regular hours at Lewiston's new Department of Veterans Affairs clinic.
The addition is meant to offer more help to veterans.
"Veterans need all the help they can get," said Jerry DeWitt, a VISTA volunteer and veteran who lobbied to bring the VA's new community-based outreach clinic to Lewiston.
Currently, several service groups share a suite of offices at the Togus VA hospital. But there are few other central locations in Maine.
DeWitt's idea was to use some of the new clinic's extra space to provide a rotating office for the groups.
The Maine Bureau of Veterans Services, which maintains office space on Westminster Street in Lewiston, has signed on, as has the VFW. Plans also call for the American Legion to take part.
The Disabled American Veterans, who serve all veterans and their families, plan to be among the first to go to work at the Lewiston office.
"We haven't set a schedule, yet," said Jim Gehring, the DAV's adjutant for Maine.
However, it will be an opportunity for his group to give folks throughout the region a time to stop by and make an appointment in an office setting, something that's currently available only at Togus.
"We can help them file forms. We can help them file claims," Gerhing said.
Common issues include how to apply for a VA mortgage, pension issues and education benefits.
And though Gerhing said the VA bureaucracy is improving, it can still be confusing for people.
"There's really a wide range of programs that we support," Gerhing said. "Ultimately, we would love to have someone in there once a week. We have the volunteers to do it. It's just a matter of scheduling it and what they allow us to do."
Plans call for agencies to begin offering services as early as Aug. 6, DeWitt said.
The VA clinic is at 15 Challenger Drive in Lewiston, not far from Maine Turnpike Exit 80.