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Veterans continue healthcare battle

Posted: Friday, Jan 18th, 2013

Richard Nagley

Courier staff writer

VALLEY — Local veterans are still traveling to the Front Range for medical services despite promising talks with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) last year.

On Monday, Richard Nagley, and Air Force Veteran from Costilla County, reported to the San Luis Valley County Commissioners Association (SLVCCA) the Valley’s veterans are being transported to Denver and Colorado Springs for MRIs, x-rays and ultra sounds in numbers although the VA committed to local fee-based health services in the area in 2012.

“It can be extremely hard on vets,” Nagley said. “Imagine a World War II vet having to go to Denver for an x-ray or an MRI.”

Last year, the SLVCCA formed a veterans’ commission to help the retired service men and women from World War II to today improve their situations and opportunities. The commission, Nagley said, was instrumental in supporting meetings with the VA last summer and in October, bringing great progress to the movement that has since slowed. The local health care facilities have not been contacted, and elected official veteran’s service officer has not heard from the VA since November.

“It’s really an uphill fight,” Nagley said. “Without your assistance, we are just a bunch of vets rolling in the woods.”

He said that totals for veteran medical transportation services are over 100,000 miles as of late, and that figure does not include those who drive themselves to their appointments. Since the October 18 meeting, 19 Valley veterans have been transported to the Front Range making for at least 16 trips.

“We need to have them here locally,” said Alamosa County Veterans Service Officer Frank Muniz. “I think we can. I think it is going to happen.”

The SLVCCA agreed, and moved to continue the commission and appoint representatives in a future meeting.

“I think it is important to have this coalition continue,” said Conejos County Veterans Service Officer Orlando Gallardo. “We can continue to do better for our vets.”

In addition to improving veterans’ healthcare services, Nagley said plans for the coming year would focus on homeless services, education, work rehabilitation and women veteran’s services.

“A large consistency of your constituency are vets,” Nagely said. “We are speaking out and asking for help.”

Gallardo added, “The vets also need to know that we are here to help.”

On Thursday, Senator Mark Udall, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced he is launching a series of roundtables to connect with Colorado veterans throughout the state.

“Our veterans represent the very best of our nation and what we strive to achieve through their exemplary hard work, selflessness and courage,” Udall said. “More than 400,000 veterans call Colorado home, and as a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, these roundtables will give me a better sense of how I can help to ensure they are receiving all of the benefits they’ve earned. We can never fully repay our debt to our veterans, but we can make sure Washington, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Congress are working for them.”

Udall and his staff will host these roundtable discussions across Colorado. The first roundtable of the series will take place this Saturday, Jan. 19 at 9 a.m. in the Community Room at 555 Ute Ave. in Grand Junction. Udall will announce future roundtables later this year.

The Valley service officers will have a meeting on January 25 at 10:30 a.m. at the Alamosa County complex to further discuss healthcare and other issues.

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