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Area vets to gather in Boston to support of Soldiers Home

Date: 12/29/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- Area veterans and supporters plan to protest on the steps of the State House on Jan. 13 to demonstrate their continued concerns about the future of the Holyoke Soldiers Home.

Kris Lecca, the veterans' agent for the city of Holyoke, told Reminder Publications that there would be a number of buses leaving the area on Jan. 13 for a 9:30 protest in Boston.

American Legion Post 351, 50 St. Kolbe Drive, will have a bus leaving at 7 a.m. for Boston. To reserve a seat, call 322-5630. There will also be two buses leaving from the Soldiers Home. For information, call Kathy Minkler at 532-9475.

In Chicopee, the Amvets Post at 754 Montgomery St. will also have a bus leaving for the protest. Call 533-8060 for more information. American Legion Post 124, 38 Broad St., Westfield, has a bus as well and can be reached at 562-9779 for reservations.

Lecca noted the state's two Soldiers Homes were established by statute and she has questioned whether or not the closing of the pharmacy, the eye clinics, the dental clinic and, most recently, the outpatient clinic is illegal.

Lecca has asked for information on the Holyoke Soldiers Home budget, payroll, expenditures, overtime, grants received, copies of board minutes and the names and terms of all board members.

"I've been asking the question right along -- did the Board of trustees or the governor make the decision [to close the outpatient clinic]?" she said.

She wants to know if there are waste or non-essential programs that could be cut in order to maintain health services for the veterans who go there.

She questioned why the Soldiers Home needs its own legal counsel -- at a cost of $66,500 a year -- and charged "[The Soldiers Home] has been a political catch-all for anyone who worked on a political campaign."

In response to Gov. Deval Patrick's statements concerning veterans using heath care services offered by the Veterans Administration at its facility in Leeds, Lecca said she doesn't believe the governor understands the eligibility guidelines for those services,

She questioned if Patrick has been "well advised" on the Soldiers Home issue and said she would welcome the chance to sit down and speak with him.

"I'm very disappointed in him," she said.