Rep. Carol Shea-Porter hears veterans’ complaints and compliments
MANCHESTER — One veteran spoke about how an SBA loan helped him start his electric business, while another complained about it’s been eight months and he still is waiting for needed knee replacement surgery and still another admonished officials to stop wasting taxpayers’ money by giving scammers millions in dollars meant to help veterans start companies.
So it went Wednesday morning at a veterans town hall, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, at Sweeney Post 2, The American Legion.
“We have an obligation to provide veterans and their families with access to quality health care, a good job and an affordable education,” said Shea-Porter, a member of the U.S. House Armed Service Committee.
A six-member panel of experts serving the needs of New Hampshire veterans explained the services they provide.
Among them was Tammy Krueger, acting director of the Manchester Veterans Administration Medical Center, where a new addition is being built to expand mental health and primary care services at the Smyth Road hospital. It is expected to take two years to complete.
She said the hospital holds monthly open houses to reach out to veterans. They are in contact with about a quarter of the 100,000 veterans in the state. She wanted to hear ideas veterans may have and how they can improve services.
During a question period, she got an earful from one wheelchair-bound veteran who said he’s been waiting to have a knee replacement since last December, had to travel to Boston for a new prosthetic and that he fell when being moved out of his wheelchair while being assisted by a young woman who “barely weighed 95 pounds.”
Shea-Porter and Krueger immediately referred him to staffers from their agencies to assist him with his problems. Someone else in the audience, however, told him his personal issues should be taken up in private. “Never mind,” he said, tossing a cup in the trash and wheeling himself into the bar section of the hall. Staffers from the various agencies and non-profits represented on the panel — including Shea-Porter’s office, the Manchester Veterans Administration Regional Office, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Northeast Veterans Business Resource Center Inc., Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and the state department of Employment Security — were on hand to assist veterans with their needs. The officials and their staffs seemed to outnumber those attending by about 2 to 1. One veteran who was pleased with services he received through the SBA was Albert Tansey of Manchester, who a year ago opened Tansey Electric on Page Street after obtaining a Patriot Loan. He served eight years in the military, four years each in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army.
“It was instrumental in my being able to hire two more people,” Tansey said, noting his company is a union shop.
Howie Howe, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served two years in Vietnam and who is known for his aggressive activism on behalf of veterans, said he was going to “throw a bomb” on what he described as a “nice dog and pony show.” He admonished the officials to “please stop wasting our money,” citing reports that millions of dollars in loans intended to go to disabled veterans, were awarded instead to established companies where the business owner was not a veteran. That, he said, happened while veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington have to travel half-mile (bus transportation is provided) to get to a dining trailer where there are only two seats available for the disabled. Walter Reed decided earlier this month to close the “Warriors Cafe” in building 62 on weekends, which meant wounded soldiers being treated there would have to travel a half-mile to a temporary dining trailer. Last week, after news reports of the plan, the hospital decided not to make the change. “I am glad you are a bomb thrower,” Shea-Porter told him. She said the officials were there to listen to him and the other veterans and to try and make things better for everyone.