By: Pat Smith, Department Adjutant, Published in the March 2015 Internet Observer
Washington, D.C. is no fun in the middle of winter. Actually is it fun at any time of year? Ten Legion, Auxiliary and SAL members just returned from our nation’s capitol last week and a visit to see our U S Senators and Congressmen. This is an annual visit to inform our delegation of the issues facing this country and our veterans.
As you may know Denver has been waiting for the VA to finish the new hospital on the Fitzsimons campus. It has been a “boondoggle,” to say the least. Much of our conversations with our congress people, and their staff, were centered around this one issue. If you believe what they say our entire delegation is united in wanting to see this hospital completed. There are two bills, one in the house and one in the Senate, to raise the “cap” originally authorized to build the facility from $800,000 to 1.2 billion dollars. Just because they rise the cap doesn’t mean that the money is available. The VA and/or Congress will need to find those additional funds to finish the project. The saga continues so keep in touch.
Other conversations consisted of concerns about the ongoing sequestration and what impact that will have on our military. With the world in turmoil from terrorist’s organizations now is not the time to reduce the number of troops or cut back on the equipment we need to wage a war against those who seek to destroy us. We asked that the military be exempt from any future cuts.
And our conversations included asking the VA to find new and more efficient ways to treat the signature wounds of the Global War on Terror. PTS and TBI are being treated with massive amounts of drugs and they do not always solve the problem. We asked Congressman Mike Coffman, who sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, to find funds to do spectra scans of the brains, before and after, of a control group of soldiers who receive the HBOT treatment. In Colorado we have been first hand witnesses of the changes that treatment makes in the lives of those soldiers with TBI. Those scans could go a long way in establishing HBOT as a better alternative to drugs.
While we were there, our National Commander testified before a joint session of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees. You can find the results on that testimony on the national website at www.legion.org.
The future of the VA health care system was also a topic. The VA is under intense fire for the way veterans have been treated with secret waiting lists, long waits for appointment times and confusion on the roll out of the Choice Card. Commander Helm made the following statement on the Choice Cards: “But let me be clear. The American Legion supports Choice Cards only as a temporary fix to the bigger problem of VA access. We adamantly oppose privatization or the vouchering out of VA care as a long-term solution. Veterans need VA. It’s up to us to repair the access problem and restore trust, not send veterans down the road for help somewhere else.”
The American Legion must remain vigilant on all issues facing our veterans. We can do that by keeping our membership strong and informed. If you have an opinion on any of these topics don’t hesitate in calling your Senators and Congressman and let your voice be heard. While there were only ten of us from Colorado in Washington, we were speaking for all of The American Legion family. As veterans we fought of freedom. As citizens we need to fight to preserve it. Please do your part!