I want to express my appreciation for the great service I received recently at the Togus VA Medical Center.

I joined the Navy in 1979. I wasn’t a patriot; I just needed a job. My father and older brother went Navy, so I went Navy. I worked hard, made rank and helped my shipmates advance. But I was too young and rebellious to serve with distinction, so I was discharged honorably, but prematurely.

Today, I’ve received my paperwork updating my VA health care status. For a vet like me with no service-related injuries, the VA offers efficient basic health care — a godsend these days when self-employed people like myself work double-time to buy coverage at all.

Our taxpayers fund this benefit, along with the sacrifice of those working for the VA. From the doctors to those answering the phones, all work with pride while being paid less than their commercial counterparts, to serve us veterans.

VA medicine faces challenges and criticism. The system was unprepared for the number and severity of the casualties from Afghanistan and Iraq. The backlog of care for which the wounded wait every day is disgraceful. While military and industrial computerization is state of the art, the VA’s systems are decades old. Veteran PTSD issues, joblessness, and homelessness demand solutions. But they’re working the problems, doing what they can with dedication.

I’m thankful that President Barack Obama has asked Congress every year to increase spending for Veterans Affairs, and Congress has agreed.

I’ll meet my primary care physician soon, paying the co-pays asked of me, who served so briefly and emerged whole. I want to stay healthy to watch my own son, serving today in the Navy, become a thankful vet like me, receiving the benefits of his great nation.

Mark Minervino

Scarborough