VA reps address health care concerns at Benton Township forum

Battle Creek VA Medical Center representatives speak to Benton Township veterans about changes to their healthcare coverage. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

Battle Creek VA Medical Center representatives speak to Benton Township veterans about changes to their healthcare coverage. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter  | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP – A temporary program to help veterans get medical care beyond the Veterans Administration appeared a prime topic at a forum Thursday night.

Nearly two dozen veterans who served from World War II to Afghanistan assembled to ask questions about health care assistance during a VA Town Hall meeting at VFW Post 1137. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs came to listen and discuss recent changes on health care coverage.

Among the main topics was the Veterans Choice Program, which is a new temporary program to improve veterans’ access to health care through eligible providers outside of the VA.

Mary Beth Skupien, director for the Battle Creek VA Medical Center, said the agency is working on getting those services in a closer format through the temporary program. Veterans who live more than 40 miles away from the closest VA medical facility are eligible.

“That’s why we hold these town hall meetings,” she said, “they are to help those who feel they can’t be helped.”

Several attendees said they wanted all veterans to be able to register in order to at least be in the system. Lee Lull, Berrien County veterans services director, said the VA does not have the money to allow that at this point.

“Congress has set guidelines for veterans with a certain income,” he said. “However, if they fought in Vietnam they can get into the system automatically. It doesn’t matter how much they make a year.”

Pamphlets and other information was handed out to attendees, where VA representatives went through the initial sign-up process for those who were eligible.

“There are a lot of privacy concerns when it comes to getting access,” Lull said. “We work with these vets who have problems getting signed up and whether or not they have alternate options.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@thehp.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 22, 2015)

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