MACHIAS, Maine — The Maine Bureau of Veterans Services has temporarily closed its office in Machias, the agency’s director reported Thursday.
Michael Perkins, the veterans service officer who previously staffed the office, has retired, said Peter Ogden, director of the bureau. The position cannot be filled immediately because Perkins accrued vacation time that he is using before the retirement is official, said Ogden.
“We appreciate all Mike’s done down there,” said Ogden. “He’s going to be missed.”
The office, which helps veterans apply for benefits, was temporarily closed on Monday.
With Perkins on vacation, the office has been empty because a clerical position in the office has been vacant. The clerical position is in the process of being filled, said Ogden.
Files have been transferred to the office in Togus so other staff can continue to work on them. In addition, a veterans service officer may work out of the Machias office from time to time to “fill in,” said Ogden. “We’ll probably figure out if we need to farm out some of those claims,” he said. Calls to the Machias office are being transferred to the Togus office.
The Machias office is expected to be reopened full time in mid-July, said Ogden. “It depends on the hiring process,” he said, which takes about six weeks.
“This has nothing to do with what’s going on with the VA,” said Ogden, referring to the scandal that has erupted in the federal Department of Veterans Affairs over long wait times for veterans seeking care and employees who conspired to cover them up. The scandal brought about the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and prompted an investigation by the FBI.
“It’s not an issue for us,” said Ogden, adding that the scandal “probably makes people nervous, and veterans do talk.”