Category Archives: Veterans

Help Ellijay Vets Bring Christmas Cheer

The American Legion Post 82 in Ellijay, Georgia is in need of new and gently used bicycles for this year’s Christmas party for underprivileged children.

If you have a bike to donate or would like to make a cash donation to this wonderful cause please contact the Legion or Sharon at (904)629-5878.

American Legion Post 82
297 Legion Road
Ellijay, GA 30540

Collins Advocates to VA for Improved Veterans Care

WASHINGTON—Congressman Doug Collins, an Air Force Reserve Chaplain and Representative of Georgia’s Ninth District, has written a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding veterans’ access to quality health care through the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act. The full letter is below:

The Honorable Robert A. McDonald
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW, Room 1000
Washington, DC 20420 

Dear Secretary McDonald,

I am writing to request that you review policies regarding the implementation of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (“Choice Act”), specifically those related to employee training and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) management of the Choice program. I am concerned that certain requirements of the VA Choice program are being exploited by the VA to deny veterans the expedited quality care they were promised and deserve.

A recent news report highlighted the Choice program’s backlog of 150,000 veterans who have been approved to see private specialist doctors but have not yet received treatment, as well as certain VA contractors’ refusal to schedule appointments for eligible veterans. This same news source mentioned that appointments by at least one contractor are supposed to be scheduled within five to seven days, but this is not happening. Currently, 50,000 veterans have been waiting more than three months for appointments and more than 90,000 veterans have been waiting longer than one month. Disturbingly, the report noted that real wait times might be even longer than this because the VA is engaging in certain misleading practices that appear to reset or artificially shorten veterans’ wait times.

Because veterans remain on both a VA and a non-VA waiting list until a private appointment is scheduled, in some areas there are now more veterans waiting to see a private doctor than a VA specialist. The intent of the Choice program was to provide timely, high-quality healthcare for veterans by granting them access to non-VA healthcare facilities. Now, however, it appears that the VA is acting contrary to the intended purpose of the Choice program and instead penalizing those seeking non-VA care by forcing them to wait longer for care after opting into the Choice program than if they had continued pursuing care through the VA system.

Furthermore, I am concerned that several VA facilities in Georgia have been designated as having “no capacity” and therefore unable to enroll additional veterans as patients. The VA clinics in Atlanta, Austell, Blairsville, Lawrenceville, Newnan, and Stockbridge have all received this classification. This term is not defined in statute and conversations with local VA providers to resolve questions about this designation have failed to clarify its meaning. It still remains unclear what a “no capacity” designation means, what happens when a facility is designated as such, and whether or not veterans living within a 40-mile radius of a VA facility designated as “no capacity” are to be classified as instantaneously eligible for the Choice program as a result. As the United States’ veteran population ages and troops return from overseas, it is essential that veterans have access to medical facilities with the capacity and capability of addressing their health needs, regardless of whether they are run by the public or private sector.

In order to address these concerns, I ask that you please respond to the following questions:

1)   Why do reports continue to persist that VA contractors are refusing to schedule appointments for veterans eligible for the VA Choice program? Have actions been taken to rectify this problem, and if not, why not? If so, please provide a detailed explanation.

2)   Are veterans who are seeking private care being penalized for doing so?

3)   What are you doing to ensure that the 150,000 veterans awaiting appointments gain access to necessary medical treatment in a timely manner?

4)   What does it mean for a VA facility to be designated “no capacity?” Who makes this determination and what methodology is used in making this determination? Are veterans still eligible to enroll and receive care at nearby facilities that are “no capacity?” What is done to address a “no capacity” situation?

5)   If a veteran lives within 40 miles driving distance of a VA facility considered “no capacity,” are they then eligible for the Choice program under the “excessive travel burdens” eligibility criterion? Are they eligible under other provisions of Choice?

Doug Collins
Member of Congress

Reinhardt University to Host Veterans Day Special Event

Reinhardt University’s Office of Student Activities will host a special Veterans Day event Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. in the Bannister Glasshouse, Hasty Student Center. The event is open to the public. It will feature Jim Lindenmayer, director of the Cherokee County Homeless Veteran Program, the Cherokee High School ROTC color guard and Reinhardt’s School of the Performing Arts.

Reinhardt President Dr. Kina S. Mallard will give a welcome and Student Body President Katie Purcell will introduce the speakers. Michael Satterly Sr., vice commander for American Legion Post 316 in Woodstock, joins Lindenmayer as a guest speaker.

“Student Activities understands the importance of helping and commemorating our veterans,” said junior Business Administration and Management major Kristen Holder. “We hope through our program that Reinhardt students, as well as the community, will have a better understanding of veterans. We also hope to raise awareness of issues veterans are facing today.”

In addition to the program, Reinhardt University has a bigger mission of partnering with the Cherokee Homeless Veterans Program to serve the County’s veterans in different ways.

“There is a coat drive underway on campus to collect as many coats as we can for homeless veterans for the winter,” Holder said. “The drive will end with the Veterans Day Ceremony.”

Students also will participate in veterans’ home repair projects on Saturday, Nov. 12.

Through the partnership with Lindenmayer and the Cherokee County Homeless Veteran Program and American Legion Post 45 in Canton, all branches will be represented at the ceremony.

“There will be a POW MIA table setting ceremony,” Holder added.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a member of Reinhardt’s School of Performing Arts will play Taps.

“This is an important even because it commemorates our veterans. It is vital to understand and appreciate the sacrifices they have made for us,” Holder said.

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