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Southern Nevada Veterans Healthcare System holds town hall

The VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System held a veterans’ town hall at its medical center last month. The 60-minute moderated meeting featured representatives from the local health care system, the veteran benefits administration and others. The participants discussed the recent PACT Act, and additional national and local activities. Although the meeting was sparsely populated, much information was nevertheless presented to those in attendance.

William J. Caron, the local VA medical director and CEO, reported that the Veterans Affairs Southern Nevada Healthcare System has made strategic planning a priority. On a Power Point presentation, he outlined that “Quality, Access, Experience, Safety and Stewardship” were parts of “lanes of effort” when it comes to helping veterans. He urged all eligible veterans to apply for benefits under the PACT Act. That would include veterans who may have been exposed to smoke and harmful chemicals from burn pits, and who have developed diseases attributed to those actions. He also noted that the VA has continued to work to prevent veteran suicides, and noted that such work “requires a tremendous amount” of outreach on the part of the VA.

He reported that veterans who are “in crisis” can request treatment from the VA, even if they are not in the VA system.

Kim Smith, the supervisor of VA Veterans Benefit Affairs, said that the department’s mission has been updated, and the unit is serving millions of veterans including many who have not served in combat. She said the department is “providing more care than at any time in our nation’s history.” She also stressed that eligible veterans should apply for benefits under the PACT Act, and reported that on Aug. 10, certain regulations under the act will change.

Evan Rush of the Nevada Dept. of Veterans Services discussed several upcoming events that the department will hold, including Memorial Day services at the veterans’ cemetery in Boulder City. Air Force veteran Bobi Oates will handle the emcee chores. More detailed information can be found on the department’s website.

Chief of Staff Dr. Ramu Komanduri noted that some reports state that the VA provides better medical care than many civilian organizations, and also added that emergency VA care is open to all veterans, including those not enrolled in the system.

Regarding the PACT Act, Monica Rawlinoon-Maynor, chief of administrative medicine, also encouraged veterans to apply.

In answer to questions from those in attendance, Caron addressed wait times on phone calls to the VA, and said work is being done to improve the system. Komanduri said it would be of help if veterans with internet access used that form of communication. Caron also addressed veteran housing and said there is not enough of it. “Challenges are going to continue,” he explained. “Nevada has more homeless veterans than any other state.” He reported that Congress is acting and continues to round out benefit packages for veterans.

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