Local veterans weigh in on VA law

Local veterans weigh in on VA law

A new VA law could kickstart some major changes in the state's VA system.
Marquis Wingard, adjutant and treasurer of Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 87 describes the services provided by the local DAV office, located at 545 West Main Street.
Marquis Wingard, adjutant and treasurer of Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 87 describes the services provided by the local DAV office, located at 545 West Main Street.
Dothan's VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic is part of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, which came under fire after a national audit was performed this year.
Dothan's VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic is part of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, which came under fire after a national audit was performed this year.
"It's no different than when I walk to Lyster or when I went to the Dothan clinic.  It's hurry up, sit down and wait.  And when you ask a question, or you want to ask a question, you don't get an answer," shouted a frustrated  veteran at a July 9 VA town hall meeting in Dothan.  It's where he and others voiced their concerns about a broken health care system.

The Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System has been under fire, after a national audit performed this year revealed false scheduling records and patient wait time discrepancies.

"The concerns were valid, and the thing of it is that you got the congressmen up there, the senators up there who don't know what we went through," said Mike Walton with the Wiregrass Marine Corp League, Detachment 752."

He was at the Dothan town hall meeting to support fellow veterans, and now they're cautiously optimistic the VA bill, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on August 7, 2014, will fully address their concerns.

Lawmakers say veterans who live far away from clinics can now see private doctors.  The law also provides more funding for the VA to hire more doctors and nurses, and they say it will reduce wait list times and scheduling issues.

"The VA does the best they can with the money that they get from the government.  Now that they're going to have the big money to start doing things, so let's see where it goes, make sure they're not giving the big bonuses out there," Walton said.

The VA secretary will have more power to discipline or fire VA officials.

"The question is, who's going to do the firing o fthe head people.  But, if the head people know they can be fired also, I think they'll start checking more into things," said Marquis Wingard, adjutant and treasurer of Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 87.

He and others say paying the doctors more will help resolve some of the bigger issues.

"I think it's a very good start, and I understand, understanding the laws and the way it all works, that it's not going to just be instant.  But still, it's a light of hope," Wingard said.

Legislators also say it could be a while before they know the full effect of the law.  Some local veterans are also hoping the government will step in to resolve issues with the VA's lengthy claims process.  It's another issue veterans say keeps them from receiving the service they deserve after serving the country.
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