SHINNSTON, W. Va. – An organization is coming to help veterans get access to medical care in wake of a federal audit which claimed the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg had long delays.
Leadership within the American Legion said they felt the need to up their efforts after news of similar delays resulted in death at the VA in Phoenix broke.
“We saw that through that process there are thousands, if not millions of veterans that are in dire need of care and services,” Roscoe Butler, Deputy Director of Healthcare with the American Legion said.
Members of the American Legion’s System Worth Saving Task Force will hold a town hall meeting on Monday, August 4, at American Legion Post 31 on 76 Bridge St. in Shinnston.
“The town hall meeting is to allow veterans to come in and share their experiences about the health care they are currently receiving at the VA hospital,” Butler said. “That will give our leaders insight and develop questions so when they meet with the director of the medical center, they’ll be able to pose some questions.”
The meeting is open to the general public and local veterans are encouraged to attend, especially those affected by wait-time delays.
American Legion officials then plan to meet with medical center Director Beth Brown after the meeting to to discuss the issues presented by those seeking care. They will also discuss the 54 day wait for new patients seeking a primary care doctor, 86 day wait for a specialist and 96 day wait for mental health services claimed by the audit. Brown has previously said these numbers do not match the hospital’s records.
A Veterans Crisis Command Center will also be set up from August 5-6 at Post 31.
Members of the Legion’s national staff, along with local Legionnaires, staff from VA facilities and volunteers from other organizations will be on hand to assist veterans and their families with services including assistance in filing for VA appointment scheduling, grief counseling, benefits claims, and help with enrollment in VA health care.
The staff will also attempt to get veterans retroactive benefits.
“In some instances, at crisis centers, we have been able to assist veterans in getting on-the-spot retroactive benefits,” Butler said. “At the Fayetteville [North Carolina] VA, we were able to assist veterans in getting over $450,000 in retroactive benefits.”
A release from the American Legions states the operating hours for the crisis center at Post 31 will be noon to 8 p.m. on August 5 and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on August 6.
The American Legion, with help from the VA and other organizations, has been operating week-long crisis centers for veterans and family members since early June in Phoenix, Fayetteville, North Carolina, El Paso, Texas, St. Louis and Fort Collins, Colorado, with another crisis center opening this week in Baltimore.
The Legion plans to operate such centers throughout the summer in several other cities.