Wednesday, February 20, 2008

VA Sec. Peake and Senator Tester address needs of veterans

Federal Veterans Affairs Secretary visits Billings
Of The Gazette Staff

Limited by staff and space, Veteran's health care services in Montana fall short, said U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who today brought U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake to Billings to meet with local veterans.

"What I'm getting at is the staff and the square footage is a big issue," Tester said. "That's not just here. It's the same in Great Falls and other places."

Tester and the secretary got a firsthand look at the tight cramped quarters of the Veterans Affairs Primary Affairs Clinic in Billings. Roughly a decade old, the King Avenue health care facility is no longer big enough to accommodate services for Billings-area veterans. Plans to relocate to a larger facility are in the works, but the VA Primary Care Center is also short on staff.

Wait time
Veterans speaking to Tester and Peake said phone calls to the VA Primary Care Center often go unanswered for half an hour. Getting in to see a counselor about war-related stress can take days.

Rural areas
Addressing veteran's care in rural areas specifically, Peake announced the creation of a rural health advisory committee to bring rural health care issues to the fore. Tester brought Peake to Montana to so the secretary could see challenges of veteran health care in rural areas first hand. Peake in turn said some areas of Montana went beyond rural and were actually frontier.

Release of medical records
The need for better mental health care was later driven home during a town hall meeting, in which the father of a suicidal Marine living in Billings pleaded for the release of his son's military records so the boy could get help. Trembling and near tears, the man barely made his request.

But this is the most troubling of all

The average time for processing claims currently is 185 days and only one in 10 claims are filed correctly.

go here for the rest

This last part is the biggest reason all veterans should seek the help of service officers to fill these claims out the right way the first time. It's too hard to know what the form is asking for half the time. While organizations like the DAV do not charge for their help, all they ask is that you consider joining them. That's all. They are not connected to the government but they know how the system works. They operate on donations. Most of them do.

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