By KayLynn Roberts-McMurray

The Ely Times

A second Veteran’s Town Hall meeting was held this past Monday at the Convention Center.

While there was definitely more seating, and the usage of a microphone so everyone could hear, it appeared that there was not as big of a turnout from the previous meeting held last month.

The VA came a lot more prepared this time by setting up tables with each one having representatives from different programs to assist veterans with their healthcare, appointments, benefits, and any general questions.

Many veterans seemed to be more pleased with the program going back to a more user friendly program that was previously offered before the previous changes had started to occur.

Representatives from Congressman Ruben Kihuen’s office, Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto, and Senator Dean Heller’s office were seated at designated tables to try and answer any questions Veterans had.

On April 19, President Trump signed a law that removes the Aug. 7 expiration date and allows VA to utilize funding dedicated to the Veterans Choice Program (VCP) until it is exhausted.

This also allows for Veterans eligible for the VCP to continue receiving care from providers in the community, and allows providers to continue to deliver care to Veterans.

This will ease many White Pine County Veterans who were having to travel 300 plus miles to receive medical service.

The other change that occurred is the VA is now the Primary Coordinator of Benefits for services provided to Veterans under the VCP.

This common sense change VA requested from Congress more closely aligns the VCP with the other community care programs.

Before the law changed, some veterans were required to pay the cost-shares/co-pays associated with their private health insurance, now those veterans will not have to pay these fees to their private health insurance carrier.

Now the provider will only have to bill the Veterans Choice Program.

Another change is Information Sharing. The VA had a restriction regarding the exchange of health information. This law removes those restrictions and ensures that community providers have access to appropriate health information for Veterans.

Heller announced in a press release that the Department of Veterans Affairs will have provider agreements in place so that every enrolled veteran in Ely and its surrounding communities can access health care by going directly to the William Bee Ririe Hospital through September of 2017.

“I welcome the news that the VA will ensure that every enrolled veteran in the community has direct access to the William Bee Ririe Hospital through September as a positive first step,” said Heller. “While we are encouraged by this development, veterans in Ely deserve a permanent solution that meets their health care needs and expectations.

“That is why I will continue to work with the VA toward that solution to ensure our heroes receive the care they have earned.”