KayLynn Roberts-McMurray
U.S. Rep Ruben Kihuen visits with veterans in Ely to discuss health care options.

By KayLynn Roberts-McMurray

The Ely Times

The Ely Times was invited to a closed door meeting with Ruben Kihuen, the U.S. Representative for Nevada’s 4th congressional district who was here to discuss ongoing issues with the Veteran’s Administration and the Choice Program with some local veterans.

Gina Newton, the public relations liaison, and Matt Walker, CEO both from the William Bee Rire Hospital, were also present. Veterans Bob Terhune, Margaret Brown, Christine Stones and Glyniss Kogan had a chance to speak on behalf of family members and about their own personal struggles they have been experiencing when it comes to getting something as simple as an appointment to see a specialist.

Kihuen listened to vets for about an hour while they explained how limited their resources are now that the VA ended its contract with William Bee Ririe.

Prescriptions used to be written by a local provider and the veterans would be able to fill them at the hospital’s pharmacy.

Now, they have two options, send them off and wait for 10-14 days before they receive them, or take them to the local pharmacy, pay for them out of pocket, and submit all of the paperwork for reimbursement.

Many veterans are on a fixed income, $60 for a few prescriptions is a great amount of money to them and waiting months to be reimbursed is not a solution.

Now many veterans have to travel 300 miles one way just to see a specialist or provider. And although there is a VA van that is ran by a volunteer to make trips back and forth to the VA Clinic in Salt Lake, it only operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays and has a departure time of 3 a.m.

Kogan has to travel out of town every three months so she makes the trip herself, it costs her a lot of money, and she finds herself having to stop every hour to get out of the car and walk around due to her medical conditions.

“If I’m having these issues, there’s got to be a whole lot of other Vets having these issues,” Kogan said.

She spent a total of three hours with three different representatives from Choice. One of the representatives told her they couldn’t even find her information in the system.

The third representative told her that she found her information in the system, but she was not mileage eligible, and Kogan had been mileage eligible for the past four years.

Margaret Brown who was representing her husband, spoke of the long wait times sitting on the phone with Choice.

Stones spoke on behalf of her father and as a staff member of William Bee Ririe. Stones said, “We have many veterans who have sat on their tracfones spending all their minutes on that one phone call. A call like this costs them up to $40 in minutes on their phones, to not even get the opportunity to speak to a representative from Choice or Healthnet.  Veterans who cannot hear on the phone, may have a family member call in for them, but with Healthnet, the veterans representative (family member) cannot receive any information because they don’t have access to the files at the VA to acknowledge who they can and cannot relay veteran information onto.

Newton said, “We have sat on the phone for three hours waiting to speak to a provider without any luck.”

One person commented that Choice is no longer a choice, it’s our only option.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Kihuen said “This has been very helpful, and more importantly I wanted to come and listen to you all, because I couldn’t make it to to the town hall meeting, actually I didn’t know about the town hall meeting until last minute.

“I heard about this while I was in the middle of a tour and I received a call from my staff in D.C., I didn’t even get a courtesy call, nobody gave us a call to let us know that they were going to cancel the contract, and the first thing we did was try to get on board and try to do something about this.

“I saw the reports about the town hall meeting, I was impressed, 200 plus people in attendance, this has a huge impact on this community, we are going to continue to put on the pressure to try to get some answers for you, I am going to continue to be outspoken about it, we are going to do everything possible to help you and make sure we get some answers for you.”