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Maine launches operation: "I served".

On Veterans Day, Governor John Elias Baldacci of Maine launched Operation "I Served", an outreach effort to locate and make veterans in the state aware of benefits and services they are or may be eligible for.

According to DAV Department of Maine Acting Adjutant Ronald W. Brodeur. Operation "I Served" is sponsored through the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services and the Maine Veterans Coordinating Committee (MVCC), of which the DAV Department of Maine is a member:

"Operation 'I Served' will work to get information out to all veterans in Maine not currently receiving benefits or services from any of our organizations, including the VA hospital and regional offices at Togus, Maine," Adjutant Brodeur said. "Our current population of veterans in Maine is approximately 154,000, yet only about 36,000 veterans are receiving benefits and services. We want to be sure all veterans are aware of what state and federal benefits they may have earned are, and help them pursue their benefits."

Volunteers from the DAV and other veterans' organizations are actively distributing a letter from Governor Baldacci explaining Operation "I Served" and an information poster to key locations throughout Maine in an effort to spread the word about the program.

Outreach is certainly an effective way to identify and assist veterans and their families and survivors, according to DAV National Service Foundation President Gary Burns. A Retired DAV National Service Officer (NSO). Burns recalls DAV outreach efforts throughout Maine using DAV Field Service Units more than 30 years ago.

"Today, technologically advanced DAV Mobile Service Offices continue DAV outreach, claims assistance and advocacy on behalf of veterans and their families." Burns said. "'Operation 'I Served' is a noble idea that has merit as an outreach program. It is certainly commendable to see all organizations actively supporting this effort, which benefits all veterans."

"We know that less than half of the current eligible veterans in Maine have not made any formal claim for VA benefits that they may have earned," DAV NSO Supervisor Kevin D. Noel said. "We are proud of our DAV outreach programs in Maine. Since 1974 we have traveled throughout the state informing veterans, their dependents, and survivors of their benefits, and assisting them with claims before the Veterans Administration. We're excited to see the "I served" program expanding outreach efforts through more agencies and organizations to reach deserving veterans.

"There is an added urgency to ensure veterans are informed, in view of the growing number of disabled and other veterans returning from recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and worldwide. Many are not fully aware of benefits and services they may be entitled to, such as education benefits and Free medical care at VA medical facilities for two years following their discharge if they meet a few basic requirements. Programs like "I Served" makes reaching out to assist these veterans much more effective."

In his letter to Maine's veterans. Governor Baldacci concluded: "If you are a veteran and have not taken advantage of the benefits you may have earned, please take this opportunity and visit the Bureau of Veterans Services website (http://www.mainebvs.org) or call the closest veterans advocate to your home. The State of Maine is really to assist you. Again, thank you for your service."
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Title Annotation:Governor John Elias Baldacci makes veterans aware of their benefits
Author:Hall, Jim
Publication:DAV Magazine
Geographic Code:1U1ME
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:543
Previous Article:'Thank you' DAV.
Next Article:108th Congress delays key veterans bills.
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