Columbia VA allows veterans to voice concerns, discuss future

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COLUMBIA - Mid-Missouri veterans and their families came out to the Truman VA Hospital for the first town hall meeting of the year Friday.  The quarterly meetings began in the summer of 2014 after the VA received reports from veterans about difficult access to care and long waiting times. 

After the first meeting in 2014, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald made the question and answer style forums a requirement for the VA health care system.  The meetings are designed to address questions and concerns veterans and their families may have. 

The meeting began with a presentation that showed progress on new projects the VA is working on this year. One new project will be an inpatient rehabilitation treatment program to help facilitate substance abuse and other types of treatment. 

Army veteran Harold Pipkin said he believes the quarterly town hall meetings have made a positive difference in the veteran community. 

"I've had hearing aids replaced and I have also gotten new glasses this year," Pipkin. 

Pipkin said he believes there is still a problem with the amount of time it takes to hear back after he makes a claim. 

When asked what he thinks the VA could do to improve the problem he said, "Get more help." 

Truman VA Public Affairs Officer Stephen Gaither said the most common issues discussed at the meetings are usually service-related.  

The VA teamed up with the St. Louis Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office to help address any claims made at the end of the meeting.  

Medical Center Director Wade Vlosich said the biggest concern that veterans have right now regards the VA Choice Act.

"There are a lot of issues getting patients scheduled out in the community in a timely manner and we've been working with our regional offices to help with this," Vlosich said. 

Vlosich also said one of the most common complaints veterans have had over the years is problems with parking. This year the VA will construct a new parking garage among other projects. 

"Another thing we're really excited about is the new ICU," Vlosich said. "We'll be able to expand it and treat more patients on our in-patient unit for intensive care." 

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