TROY — The Miami Valley Veterans Museum here hosted Dr. Thomas Hardy, chief of staff of the Dayton Veteran Affairs Medical Center, at the monthly veterans’ breakfast, Wednesday, Aug. 1.
In a presentation, Hardy discussed the early days of the V.A.’s establishment, including the V.A.’s founding in 1865, when President Abraham Lincoln took action with Congress to authorize the first-ever national asylum for discharged members of the Union Army and Navy forces.
“By early 1865, it became clear that the Union Army was going to prevail,” Hardy explained. “Lincoln and Congress, seeing all of those terribly disabled men out there, said, ‘We’ve got to do something.’ There was absolutely no hospital system. If there was a hospital, it was a place you went to die. Lincoln and Congress said, ‘For the sacrifice these men have given, we need to do better.’ At his second inaugural address, Lincoln pledged to care for those who have borne the battle, and this remains the motto of the V.A. today.”
Following this action, three national homes for wounded and disabled veterans were opened, with locations in Augusta, Maine, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Dayton, Ohio, with patients first being accepted in 1867.
“As veterans, we would all have been comfortable there,” Hardy said. “They had a formation in the morning. They assigned work details. Everyone was accounted for. The men who came there after the Civil War weren’t looking for a handout. They wanted a roof over their heads, a chance to learn a trade, and they took care of each other.
“We are a national historic landmark, and part of the reason we have that distinction is to due to Civil War veterans’ efforts.”
Hardy gave a slideshow presentation featuring past and present photos of the Dayton V.A. campus, including the national cemetery on the property, which currently houses the burial sites of approximately 50,000 veterans.
“We bury 1,000 veterans every year at the Dayton V.A.,” Hardy said. “We have a great tradition that no veteran will ever die alone. No veteran will die and not have a 21-gun salute over his gravesite. If a veteran dies in our hospice, he is carried out with full military honors and buried at the Dayton VA Medical Center.”
In a question-and-answer session, Hardy addressed concerns about the staffing at the Dayton V.A.’s remaining adequately full and able to meet the needs of Miami Valley veterans.
“We are extremely well-staffed,” Hardy said. “In the last five years, Congress has been very generous with us in terms of budget, and I’ve been fortunate to recruit some of the best doctors in the Dayton area. We’ll always have some turnover — you usually have about 10 percent turnover every year. I think on the whole, we are very well-staffed from a physician standpoint.”
Hardy also confirmed that the Springfield area is soon to receive a new outpatient clinic, which will come in addition to existing outpatient clinics in the Lima, Middletown and Richmond areas.
“Springfield is going to get a new clinic. We are now in the process of finishing the Lima clinic. It’s called a community-based outpatient clinic,” he said. “In Springfield, the bid is going out even as we speak. We’re excited about that, because when we get that, all of our outpatient clinics for veterans will be new and in great shape. I’m a family physician, and I’d be happy to practice at any one of them.”
Hardy assured those in attendance that despite benefits differing for each individual, the staff at the center would work their hardest to do right by veterans.
“I want to assure all of you that I’m here to take care of you,” Hardy said. “I’ve been at the Dayton V.A. for a little over five years, and I’ve been committed in those years to making sure that every veteran who comes there gets what he needs. I can’t increase your benefits, but if you’re sideways with somebody in the hospital, or you have to wait too long for an appointment, that’s the kind of stuff I can help you with. As a veteran myself, we are in this together.”