Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine joined local veterans and advocates in Auburn on Monday to discuss the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ recent announcement that it will fund three new positions in Maine.
The VA says the hires are part of an effort to confront veteran mental health, substance abuse and homelessness. King said he’s pleased with some of the progress that has been made in finding gaps in VA services.
“We’ll never get to perfect, but I think it’s a really important start just to have people talking and finding out and understanding where the gaps are and how we can help veterans more,” he said.
King suggested hosting a symposium that brings together the key stakeholders. He said what came out of today’s discussion is the need for raising awareness and closing the existing gaps in services.
“How do we integrate all of those assets, which have the same goal of helping veterans, to improve the outcome?” he said.
Among those who joined the roundtable discussion was Matthew Jabaut, chairman of the Maine American Legion’s legislation committee, who said there are many ways veterans can slip through cracks.
“Sometimes it’s just an administrative gap, where people get lost in the system, or there is a trust factor, or they don’t have someone to guide them through that and because of the bureaucracy and administration it’s difficult to navigate,” he said.
The funding will support a veterans justice outreach specialist, a health care for re-entry veterans coordinator and a specialist focused on veteran suicide prevention.