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CT veterans respond to President Trump increasing funding for veterans

MANCHESTER – When President Donald Trump discussed funding for veterans in his speech to congress Tuesday night, veterans in Connecticut were listening.

After announcing his budget will increase national defense spending, President Trump said, “My budget will also increase funding for our veterans. Our veterans have delivered for this nation and now we must deliver for them.”

He didn’t get into specifics, but a group of veterans gathered at Manchester’s Elks Lodge Wednesday, hoping that the increased funding will deliver specific results.

“It seems like the military and veterans are always on some sort of political platform, and it’s like at what point is stuff actually really going to change for the benefit of the smallest percent of our population that actually gives the most?” said Micah Welintukonis, an army veteran from Coventry who was wounded in Afghanistan.

When asked what he’d like to see that increased funding go toward, he responded, “Where do I start?”

Eric March, a Navy veteran from Manchester, said he’d like to see improved care at VA medical centers. He speaks from experience. A surgery he had at the VA for what was described as a simple hernia repair, rendered him permanently disabled.

“My daily routine was flipped upside down. It’s quite the challenge when you have children and a wife and kids at home. It makes it difficult,” said March.

He said he’d like to see more options, “to not use the lowest bidder on the medical platform but be able to use local hospitals as well.”

Rodney Goodale, a Marine Corps veteran from Hebron, also mentioned the backlog at VA medical centers that he’d like to see improved.

“When you call to get an appointment, you don’t have to wait two months or three months,” said Goodale. “I noticed they have been getting a little better, but there’s a lot of people that aren’t being taken care of.

Gerry Gallo, an Army veteran from Vernon, who is a co-chairman for the lodge’s veterans committee, said he’d also like to see mental health addressed.

“Just by the fact that we lose 22 veterans a day, every day, 365 days a year to suicide,” said Gallo.

Other issues they’d like to see addressed include veterans homelessness and unemployment.