A Legacy of Service, Hope for the Future
DAV is a nonprofit charity that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families, helping more than 1 million veterans in positive, life-changing ways each year. The organization provides more than 700,000 rides for veterans attending medical appointments and assists veterans with more than 300,000 benefit claims annually. In 2015, DAV helped attain more than $4 billion in new and retroactive benefits to care for veterans, their families and survivors.
DAV is also a leader in connecting veterans with meaningful employment, hosting job fairs and providing resources to ensure they have the opportunity to participate in the American Dream their sacrifices have made possible.
With almost 1,300 chapters and 1.3 million members across the country, DAV empowers our nation’s heroes and their families by helping to provide the resources they need and ensuring our nation keeps the promises made to them.
J. Marc Burgess, National Adjutant
Celebrating history, focused on future
Recently, National Commander David Riley and I were honored to take a weekend to celebrate and recognize our nation’s very first Veterans Home borne of the Civil War.
We were proud to be in Maine over the weekend of Sept. 16 to experience the 150th anniversary celebration of the Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta.
In 1865 and near the conclusion of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed an act creating the National Asylum (later changed to Home) for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The eastern branch at Togus was the first of the new homes to open its doors in November 1866.
The first veteran was admitted to Togus on Nov. 10, 1866. The veteran population there expanded from 400 to 3,000 by 1868.
Togus became an official VA facility when DAV, then known as Disabled American Veterans of the World War (DAVWW), supported the Consolidation Act of July 1930, and in the words of then Vice Commander Edward J. Folsom at our 10th National Convention, it was “a bill which would establish an administration of veterans’ affairs, the purpose being for the head of this organization to gradually consolidate and coordinate all activities of the Federal Government having to do with relief of veterans of all wars.”
Today, the Togus VA campus is a medical center, regional office and national cemetery. The medical center has a staff of over 1,050 personnel representing various disciplines. It has 67 in-patient beds and 100 beds in the nursing home care units for long-term care. In 2000, the Beals House opened on the campus to provide temporary, no-cost housing for families of in-patient Togus veterans and has served more than 1,800 families since.
The Togus VA Medical Center serves as an active hospital, historical landmark and also a good example of what positive changes can mean to our VA health care system.
Throughout the events of the weekend, I couldn’t help but think of all the men and women who have come before us and who had walked on those grounds. I thought about the sacrifices that were surely made over the last 150 years and the lessons that were certainly learned.
As an organization, DAV remembers a time before there was a centralized system of care to keep our promises to our veterans, their families and survivors. The battle to protect and improve our VA health care system is a vital one. It’s important we take advantage of all the experience in facilities like Togus and not allow them to fall by the wayside.
It should serve as an inspiration and an encouraging sign of our ability to improve what is in place. If Togus can last 150 years and counting, while serving both veterans and their families, I am confident we can make the changes necessary to afford veterans the care they have earned and deserve through the VA system for generations to come.
If you want to find out more about the National Adjutant, you can find his biography here.