Justin B. Hart, the Disabled American Veterans assistant national service director, administers the oath of office on June 7 to the incoming officers of the DAV's New Hampshire Department during the group's annual convention and business session at the Town & Country Inn. Sworn in were Gerry Bosse, commander; David Wiggins, senior vice commander; Gordon Spencer, 1st junior vice commander; Curry Lashua, 2nd junior vice commander; Derek Fowler, 3rd vice commander; Douglas Cotreau, 4th junior vice commander; Fred Catalfo, department judge advocate; and Paul Pratt, department chaplain. (John Koziol)
NH disabled vets get good health care news
SHELBURNE — Members of the Disabled American Veterans-Department of New Hampshire celebrated two pieces of good news recently, welcoming new officers and receiving an assurance that their medical-care providers are free of the taint that is rocking Veterans Administration facilities around the country.
Joined by their families and loved ones, dozens of ill and disabled Granite State veterans, who served in conflicts from World War II through Iraq and Afghanistan, came north to Shelburne this past weekend where the DAV-Dept. of New Hampshire held its annual convention and business session at the Town & Country Inn.
Justin B. Hart, who is the DAV’s assistant national service director, told attendees that the organization is working to protect and improve the rights and benefits earned by more than three million veterans, especially in light of federal cost-cutting proposals.
A former member of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, Hart served in Iraq, where he was wounded and later awarded a Purple Heart. He was medically discharged from the Army in 2006 and has worked with the DAV since 2007.
Hart said as a national service officer he defines success in being able to help his fellow disabled veterans.
Peter Burdett, sworn in as the state’s civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army last December and currently vice chairman of the NH Veterans Advisory Council and a director of the Veterans Count Club, said he works with 16 veterans organizations in the Granite State, including the DAV.
A former U.S. Navy aviator, Burdett said he and other like-minded people are involved in looking out for the state’s 120,000 veterans. As vice chairman of the NHVAC, Burdett said “every single bill” that is considered by the NH Legislature is closely read to identify benefits to veterans as well as potential threats.
The NHVAC works closely with the state’s governors and takes its responsibility very seriously, he said, adding that New Hampshire is “unique” among other states in its high level of volunteerism and the efficacy with which it delivers services to veterans.
Even though New Hampshire doesn’t have any military bases, Burdett, quoting Maj. Gen. William N. Reddel III, who is the state’s adjutant general, said the state is united as “Fort New Hampshire.”
Burdett encouraged any veteran with concerns about their rights or benefits to contact him. Burdett then congratulated the newly elected boards of both the DAV-NH and the auxiliary, whose officers were sworn in by Hart.
Burdett broached the topic of the Veterans Administration’s documented delays in providing services to some veterans and of maintaining a “secret list” of those who were not being helped.
The controversy first erupted at the VA medical center in Phoenix and prompted a Congressional inquiry that was made public on June 9. The data from the inquiry backed up what Burdett told the DAV-NH members two days earlier: that the VA centers in Manchester and White River Junction, Vt., were delivering good care and in a timely manner.
“We’re in pretty good shape, we’re not Phoenix,” said Burdett, who added that he had met with the directors of both the Manchester and White River Junction centers, “looked them in the eye,” and came away convinced there were no major problems.
There are delays, Burdett acknowledged, for veterans seeking some types of care, namely audiology for which there is a 289-day delay, but there are also options being developed that would let veterans get care from doctors in the private sector.
Burdett predicted that when the dust settles at the Veterans Administration, there will be “a lot of firings,” because, as in the Navy, a “severe rudder order” is sometime given to drastically change course, and the VA scandal is such a time.
The auxiliary officers who were also sworn in include:
Jeanne Gideon, commander; Jeri Maynard, senior vice commander; Katrina Saxon, 1st junior vice president; Ann Marie Cotreau, 2nd junior vice president; Ann T. Young, judge advocate; and Estelle Plummer, treasurer.