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Vets Greet New VA Director, Express Concerns

Several area veterans gathered at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4031 for a town-hall meeting to welcome the new director of the New Mexico Veterans Affairs health-care system and to express numerous concerns about practices regarding care for ailing vets.

Andrew Welch, who will head the health-care system in Albuquerque, has been visiting with the 13 area clinics within his jurisdiction in New Mexico and Southwest Colorado.

After Welch gave a short introduction he opened the floor to questions and concerns, and the vets were more than willing to divulge personal experiences and criticize the system.

George Usinowicz, a Vietnam War vet, said the Albuquerque VA hospital has been unorganized when dealing with his medical records. One of his main concerns, and that of others, is a lack of communication between the VA hospital and private practices when sharing and updating medical records.

Lee Pavlica, also a Vietnam vet, expressed frustration that senior executives involved in a national scandal covering up delayed care for veterans were making six-figure salaries while many veterans, such as himself, were living below the poverty line.

He did, however, praise Durangos clinic.

The Durango Veterans Affairs clinic, 1970 East Third Ave., provides veterans with only basic health-care needs.

The problem for many vets occurs when they need specialized health care or treatment for a serious condition. Those patients are forced to make the journey to Albuquerque to receive adequate health care.

Vietnam Veteran William Chandler has several life-threatening health conditions that require extensive monitoring and specialized care. He said he is physically unable to make the four-hour trip as often as he needs to, and he fears he soon will die.

The VA offers a bus service to and from Albuquerque, but to get a hospital appointment within bus services window of time is difficult, he said, and if youre 15 minutes late, the appointment is canceled.

Health care is like justice, Chandler said. When its delayed, its denied.

Welch promised to look into each individuals case to see where the process failed.

Part of what Im out here to do is open the door, Welch said. I want to be someone the veterans can count on.



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