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Cabinet secretary pays a call, hears vets’ concerns

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Veterans gathered around U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough (c) and county Veterans Service Agency Director Gary Flaherty (l) for a group picture during the secretary’s visit to the service agency in Greenport on Monday, October 18.
Secretary McDonough answered questions on everything from botched surgeries to veteran homelessness—Mr. Flaherty says that there are no homeless veterans in Columbia County—to the difficulties of American Legion and VFW organizations to attract younger members. He was invited to the county by Congressman Antonio Delgado (standing l). Photos by David Lee

GREENPORT—United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough arrived at The Joseph P. Dwyer Day Room of the Columbia County Veterans Service Agency at 389 Fairview Avenue a little after noon Monday, October 18. He was met by a gathering of agency employees, politicians, press and veterans.

As the host, Columbia County Veterans Service Agency Director Gary Flaherty welcomed him. The Biden administration’s cabinet secretary was introduced by Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-19th), who had initially invited him to the area. Also in attendance were state Senator Daphne Jordan (R-43rd) and New York State Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R-107th).

Secretary McDonough was confirmed to the position on February 8, 2021. His administrative skills had been honed notably as White House Chief of Staff in the Obama administration from 2013 to 2017. He is one of only two secretaries of Veterans Affairs who has not been in military service himself. He said that this is one of the reasons he is visiting county veterans service agencies and local organizations. He stressed the importance of local community involvement through the facilities such as the Dwyer Day Room. He also said that mental health services must be a priority.

Following the brief comments to assembled press and a tour of the day room and service agency facility, he met with several dozen veterans in the parking lot, many wearing caps of the various VFW and Legion posts to which they belong. They asked him questions from specific cases to general conditions. And without disagreement, they applauded the work of Director Flaherty.

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