Congressman Mark Amodei talks veterans’ issues at Minden town hall | RecordCourier.com

Congressman Mark Amodei talks veterans’ issues at Minden town hall

by Rachel Spacek
rspacek@recordcourier.com

Congressman Mark Amodei speaks on the Yucca Mountain issue Thursday at the Nevada Appeal office.

Concerns about the Department of Veterans Affairs, veteran health care and homelessness were on the minds of Douglas County veterans at a town hall sponsored by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., on Tuesday in Minden.

Several veterans in attendance expressed concerns with the service they had received at the VA Carson Valley Clinic in Gardnerville.

One said he and others were told by the Gardnerville clinic they had to drive to the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in Reno to find out if they were eligible for benefits.

The lack of physicians at the Gardnerville Clinic also was a concern along with ensuring the right specialists were available without having to go to Reno.

"One of the realities of being here is that there isn't a doctor for every 100 people floating around here, whether you're VA, whether you're Medicaid, whether you're Medicare, whether you're fee for service, whether you're in the employee benefit plan or if you're in the federal employee benefit plan, finding someone is a challenge," Amodei said.

Lisa Howard, director of the Reno VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System, which oversees the Gardnerville clinic, said the clinic can check the eligibility of veterans and should not be sending veterans to Reno. She said she would follow up on the issue with the clinic.

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Howard also said the Gardnerville clinic hired a second physician who should help with the shortage of qualified doctors. However, she said the shortage of doctors has been felt statewide.

To help address what Howard called a national issue, the VA has a partnership with the University of Nevada, Reno, Medical School for a number of programs and training.

The issue of veteran homelessness also was a hot topic.

Shane Whitecloud, outreach specialist at the Northern Nevada Veterans Resource Center, works with homeless veterans and said he's concerned the rising cost of rentals in Northern Nevada will deplete the organization's grants and resources faster than it has before.

"We used to find a one-bedroom apartment for our homeless veterans for $500 or $550; now we can't find one for less than $850," Whitecloud said.

He asked the congressman if there was any way to increase the supplemental income for veterans or give them more disability money.

Amodei said he would look into the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill for any language that addresses homeless and disabled veterans and if any other VA services exist that address affordable housing for veterans.

Amodei kicked off the meeting by signing "Be There," a resolution aimed at preventing veteran suicides. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin signed the resolution during his visit to Reno last Tuesday. Amodei's signature follows those of Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval's chief of staff, Mike Willden, and Dr. Melissa Piasecki, dean of the University of Nevada, Reno's School of Medicine.

Following his signing of the resolution, Amodei gave the audience a brief overview of what has been going on in Washington, D.C. He spoke briefly about the Affordable Care Act, saying he believes Congress will "get health care done" in the next year, he said referring to reform.

The Republican congressman from District 2, also discussed the VA budget funding which has increased every year for the last five years, he said.

"In one sense, we need more resources because there are more customers and also the mission is a little bit different," Amodei said. "The mission has changed, we need to change to meet the mission and the mission is growing."

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