Services for veterans

By Deborah Carroll

Feature Writer

According to information obtained from Maine VISTA, an acronym for Volunteers in Service to America, in 2011 Maine veterans numbered 136,400, representing the highest concentration of veterans in the United States. Of these, more than 50 percent were Vietnam era veterans and 76 percent were over the age of 50.

According to Jerry DeWitt, LSW, of VISTA, of the nearly 140,000 veterans in the state of Maine, “Only 30 percent had signed up for health benefits, and even fewer — just three to five percent — had signed up to receive the educational benefits” to which they are entitled.

Veterans Inc., an organization dedicated to helping veterans find affordable housing, training and employment, health care, and other services, reports that: “Veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless; younger veterans suffer much higher jobless rates than older veterans; and, the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide rates among veterans is climbing.”

In addition to the veterans themselves, according to a Military Family Lifestyle Survey conducted in 2012 by Blue Star Families, “Across America there are approximately 2-million children with actively deployed parents, 1.3 million of those are school age, one in three show signs of anxiety (2.5 higher risk than peers), and there has been a 20 percent increase in mental health visits by military children since 2007.”

DeWitt, whose office is located at Tri-County Mental Health in Lewiston, and many others are dedicated to improving the lives of Maine veterans and their families. The following is a short list of local resources that are available and is by no means a comprehensive list of resources. It is intended only to provide local veterans with a place to start.

Operation “I Served” is a comprehensive “Veterans Resource Guide” created by the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services and the Maine Veterans Coordinating Committee. This guide covers benefits available through the state of Maine, the Federal government, the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor. A copy of this informative guide can be obtained by contacting:

Jerry DeWitt, Veterans’ Outreach Coordinator, at 207-783-9141; 207-783-4663 ext. 228; or [email protected].

Jerry Smith, Veterans’ Service Officer with the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management Maine Veterans’ Services at 207-783-5306; [email protected]; or,

Electronically at www.maine.gov/dvem/bvs/operation_i_served.htm.

The Veterans Resource Guide also provides a list of frequently called numbers including but not limited to:

Togus VA Medical Center – Health Care: 1-877-421-8263

Vet Center, Lewiston: 207-783-0068

VA Suicide Hot Line: 1-800-273-8255

Togus VA Regional Office Center – Benefits: 207-623-8411 ext. 5900

Maine Veterans’ Services, in Lewiston: 207-783-5306

Maine Veterans’ Homes, in Augusta: 207-622-2454 or 1-888-684-4664

A “Veterans Service Directory [of] Benefits and Resources,” put together by the Brunswick CareerCenter, can also be obtained by visiting the Lewiston CareerCenter at 5 Mollison Way in Lewiston or by calling 207-753-9092.

Veterans Inc.’s local office is at 415 Lisbon Street, Suite 408 in Lewiston. For information regarding employment and training programs, supportive services, and affordable housing, including the future 25-bed shelter for homeless veterans on Main Street in Lewiston, call their 24-hour line, 800-482-2565, or visit them on the web at veteransinc.org. Local veterans can also contact:

Alan Plummer, Supportive Services for Veterans and Families case manager: 207-298-0038 or [email protected]; or, Ray Michaud, Employment and Training Specialist: 207-298-0993.

In addition, Tri-County Mental Health Services’ Lewiston office is at 1155 Lisbon Street. TCMHS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing crisis care for veterans and others:

TCMHS Crisis Line: 1-888-568-1112

On November 13, TCMHS will host “Bringing Worlds Together” – a free conference for veterans and family members from 1 to 3 p.m. at the High Street Congregational Church, 106 Pleasant Street in Auburn. To learn more about this program, contact Jerry DeWitt at the number provided above.

According to a representative of TCMHS, The Maine Military & Community Network “is a community effort to understand, prevent and help with the lingering after effects of war on service members, their families, and their communities.”

On Saturday, Nov. 16, the Maine Military & Community Network will host a free “Harvest of Resources Fair for Veterans and Military Members of all Eras & their Families,” from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the National Guard Armory on Alfred Plourde Parkway in Lewiston. Attendees will be afforded the opportunity to speak with more than 40 organizations that specialize in “Veteran’s benefits, recreational opportunities, elder services, children’s services, education, employment, healthcare, housing, therapy dogs, legal, personal finances, women’s issues, Veteran Affairs’, traumatic brain injury and much more!”

For more information about “A Harvest of Resources Fair,” contact:

Rich Oberg, Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist, Maine Department of Labor, Lewiston CareerCenter: 207-753-9092; or Jerry DeWitt at the number provided above.


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