Greg Walden, Congressional representative for Oregon’s 2nd District, met with Wallowa County veterans at VFW Post 4307 in Enterprise on Friday as part of a district-wide tour. Rep. Walden opened the meeting with an overview of the intent of Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs to serve veterans.
“In Congress, we do the policy,” Walden said. “We are not the day-to-day managers of the VA, but we are finding ourselves drawn into it more and more. We try to learn about the problems and try to find solutions. This is what led to the VA Choice program, intended to provide timely medical care to our veterans.
“If you’re scheduled more than 30 days or more than 40 miles away from VA care, then you can see someone local.”
The Veterans Choice card, currently in its initial phase, is intended to meet veterans’ emergency needs. Later, the program will include approved local providers, who will meet veterans’ health care needs. Then the VA can provide specialized care.
Walden also described the accountability measures added to recent bills the House passed before adjourning for the elections.
“It astounds me that it takes two years for an appeal to a veteran claim to be processed,” said Walden. “The VA funding bill we passed calls for VA employees to report their daily work, same as my sales representatives did when I owned a radio business.”
Walden also discussed veterans’ mental health care, especially in regards to the suicide rate.
“The Vietnam veterans, in coming out of Vietnam, were told to get over it and go home. That was wrong. We learned we want to provide better mental health care services to veterans, especially in regard to (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
“But I’m not here to talk, I’m here to listen.”
Around 20 veterans voiced their concerns and often praised the VA services they had received. Overall, the consensus was that once a veteran entered the VA system, the facilities at Walla Walla and Boise were very helpful.
Walden heard comments and received documentation from Brian Wizard, ret. Army, regarding his frustration in attempting to receive proper dental care. Ann Gosnell, ret. Army, brought up an unresolved claim she is dealing with.
Connie Guentert represented the services provided by Community Connections. She brought up the limited funding for veteran transportation to VA facilities and for caregivers of veterans.
The relaxed conversational atmosphere allowed open discussion about veterans’ issues.
“It was a good meeting. We should have more of them,” said George Aguilar, ret. Army.