Veterans at the Hamlet Senior Center heard American Legion members talk about health care options and current legislation on Wednesday.
American Legion member Carlton Hawkins informed veterans about terminology being used to describe possible changes coming to VA health care.
“Sequestration is the word used in reference to automatic cuts set to take place in January 2013 due to inability to get a budget agreeable to both Democrats and Republicans,” said Hawkins to veterans. “The administration has stated that veterans health care and educational benefits are exempt; but administrative expense is open for possible cuts.”
Hawkins talked about Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
“The VHA is the largest integrated health care system in the United States with 152 medical centers, nearly 1,400 Community-based Outpatient Clinics — of which Hamlet has one — community living centers, vet centers and domicilaries (rest home, like one in Fayetteville),” he said. “Together they serve more than 8 million veterans every year. Rural health care is evolving now with mobile health screening being available. The mobile unit was here in Hamlet for one day during the county fair. As the veteran population grows the veterans administration will improve on the rural health care. With more women serving in the military now than ever before the female veterans health care is expected to expand by 33 percent over the next three years.”
Veteran homelessness was another subject Hawkins spoke on.
“Veteran homelessness is an issue that concerns the American Legion and all other veteran service organizations,” said Hawkins. “The VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has promised to devote resources necessary to end homelessness by year 2015. Current estimates put the number of homeless veterans on any given night at approximately 76,000. The good news is this is down from 131,000 in year 2010, but we can do better. The VA is working closely with congress for affordable housing and support services such as family counseling and mental health service.”
Agent Orange is still an important topic to veterans today who live with the affects, said Hawkins. He addressed the veterans on that issue.
“The recent expansion of conditions presumed to be linked to Agent Orange exposure certainly created additional work for the VA but Secretary Shinseki argued correctly that it was the right thing to do. Decisions about treating and compensating veterans exposed to deadly toxins must never be motivated by whether or not the road will be challenging or costly, but whether or not the veteran has suffered and requires treatment because of exposure.”
Other topics mentioned by Jeff Joyner and Ronald Nicholson, who were with Hawkins, included protecting veterans and the Department of Defense from the 2011 Deficit Reduction Law, budget increases and disability claim backlogs that need to be eliminated.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.