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Mon, March 25

Town Hall gives local veterans chance to discuss care choices
VA leaders say they want to be top option

Northern Arizona Veteran Affairs Health Care System staff members who participated in the Town Hall at the Prescott Valley library included, left to right, Melonie Blair-Fabian, Tami Antonini, Mary Dillinger, Patricia Aljets, Julie Vedda, Dr. Clint Anthony, Dr. A. Panneer Selvam, Dr. Yusuf Dawoodbhai, Dr. Craig Lussier, and Jose Lujan, kneeling. (Northern Arizona Veteran Affairs Health Care System/Courtesy)

Northern Arizona Veteran Affairs Health Care System staff members who participated in the Town Hall at the Prescott Valley library included, left to right, Melonie Blair-Fabian, Tami Antonini, Mary Dillinger, Patricia Aljets, Julie Vedda, Dr. Clint Anthony, Dr. A. Panneer Selvam, Dr. Yusuf Dawoodbhai, Dr. Craig Lussier, and Jose Lujan, kneeling. (Northern Arizona Veteran Affairs Health Care System/Courtesy)

New outreach

The VA is now offering a monthly outreach event at the Prescott Valley Library from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. On March 12, the topic will be female veterans as March is Women’s History Month.

U.S. Marine veteran John Epstein was clear at the local VA’s Town Hall held in the Prescott Valley library last week that he didn’t come to bash the staff or leadership.

He said he simply wants to be certain he and his fellow veterans are getting what they deserve.

No one argued.

Northern Arizona Veteran Affairs Health Care System staff members were clear they want to do all they can to ensure they do just want Epstein suggested. In a time when veterans are being offered more community choices for health care — depending on convenience, physician availability and appointment times — the VA leaders said they always want to be veterans’ top choice, be it for primary medical care, pharmacy needs, mental health therapy or long-term rehabilitation or convalescence.

The local VA regularly schedules Town Hall forums at the main campus in Prescott or at other facilities across northern Arizona as a way to keep veterans informed about things they need to know as well as address any concerns they might have. This was the first such Town Hall forum held in Prescott Valley.

photo

Dr. A. Panneer Selvam. (Courier)

When it comes to community choice, Epstein said the problem he encountered was from one practice — the only one operating in Prescott — refusing to grant an appointment because of a billing issue they had with

TriWest, the company charged with arranging and paying the bills for any medical care veterans must obtain in the community.

TriWest executive Pat Shipley assured he will investigate because veterans should not need to worry about billing and on-time payments to physicians.

Epstein said he appreciates that the VA is working to enhance what it has to offer veterans, and simply wants to be in dialogue with leaders so that they can tweak areas that need improvement.

“The VA is a business like any other business,” Epstein said. “Not everyone is bad-mouthing you. We like the VA here.”

New VA Chief of Staff, Dr. A. Panneer Selvam, said he welcomes constructive criticism. The VA prides itself on its commitment to the honorable who served their country, and when there are “hiccups” he wants to be sure those are addressed and corrected so veterans get the care they deserve.

The VA is currently in a growth mode and working to recruit more doctors and medical staff, an ongoing struggle because this is a small VA located in a place with a higher cost of living than some larger campuses, Selvam and other leaders said.

Some national changes in how community choice will be delivered in the future are also aimed at speeding up appointment times for veterans, with the ultimate goal of guaranteeing that veteran medical care is provided as expeditiously as possible, either at the VA or in the community near where they live, Selvam and fellow leaders explained.

“We don’t get it right all the time, or the first time, but our mission is to get it right,” Selvam said. “We are here because we want to serve you.”

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.

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