Veterans officials visit to discuss health care

Posted: Friday, September 29, 2000

Peninsula veterans have a new option for health care, with more help on the way.

Representatives of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs are visiting the peninsula today and Saturday. They will be on hand to answer questions Saturday at the third annual Kenai Veterans Picnic.

The changes grew out of complaints from veterans that traveling to Anchorage to qualify for VA medical benefits was burdensome.

"We are working toward a more permanent solution so veterans can get care down here," said Mike Bell, community affairs director for the VA's Alaska regional office.

The Anchorage office is proposing a Community Based Outpatient Clinic, according to an information letter from Bell's office. The department has several hundred in the nation, but this would be the first in Alaska, it said.

After a series of meetings earlier this year, the VA assigned a nurse care manager for the peninsula starting in July. Since then, the department has authorized 44 veterans to seek medical care on the peninsula.

"We listened to their concerns, and we talked to doctors," Bell said. "We are going to continue to address anyone brought to our attention."

The nurse and the authorizations are interim measures. The department is in the process of analyzing alternatives and planning for a permanent solution. It expects to have the clinic or other solution in place within a year, he said.

The Alaska congressional delegation has expressed support for a peninsula clinic, and wording in the VA's fiscal year 2001 budget addresses the Kenai Peninsula situation, according to the VA letter.

Bell and Alex Spector, director of the VA's medical and regional office center in Anchorage, and other VA staff will be available at the Saturday picnic to answer questions about the health care plans and benefits.

The picnic also will feature a free lunch of barbecued ribs, hot dogs and side dishes, plus a demonstration of the "Quake House" from the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Office of Emergency Preparedness. It will be at the Kenai National Guard Armory on Forest Drive from noon to 4 p.m.

For more information, call Dave Caswell, office manager, at the Kenai Vet Center at 260-7640.

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