By Ralph Bozella, NEC

Through out the history of The American Legion we have advocated for veteran’s benefits and services. The American Legion believes that the VA Health Care system is the “Best Care Anywhere” and that it is a “System Worth Saving.” To this end, American Legion Resolution 206, Annual State of Veterans Affairs Medical Facilities Report, authorizes the National Commander to appoint a committee to conduct site visits and to publish an annual report on the capabilities and inequities at VA medical facilities.

The committee appointed by the National Commander is the System Worth Saving Task Force. From February 15 -16, 2011, Past National Vice Commander Todd White, Wyoming, and two American Legion national staff members Jacob Gadd and Warren Goldstein, represented the National Commander in Denver. The Task Force was joined by Colorado Legionnaires, National Executive Committeeman Ralph Bozella, Past Department Commander Frank McCurdy, and Service Officer Jeff Hewitt. Together we completed a comprehensive review of the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS).

For two full days we met with a variety of VA ECHCS staff to include Director Lynette Roff, Associate Director Peggy Kearns, and Assistant Director Rebecca Keough. We were presented with a wealth of information on the ECHCS extended care and Community Living Center, mental health issues to include Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicide prevention, women’s veterans issues, compensation and pension examinations, services for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans, patient advocacy, voluntary services, fiscal services, physical plant and construction on the new medical center, and a complete briefing on the Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center at the Jewell Clinic. The task force also toured both facilities.

The review ended with an initial briefing to the Director. This will be followed with a complete written report. The report will be published later this year and made available in book form to U.S. Congress, American Legion national officers, and the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System.

I found this experience to be thought-provoking and motivating. To participate in such an extensive review is to directly experience the intent of Resolution 206. This resolution defines part of who we are as American Legion members. We are here to support veterans and working closely with our regional VA health care system ensures that we are meeting our goals and objectives as veterans’ advocates. I want to recognize the Task Force members for their professionalism and courtesy. I want to recognize Director Roff and her staff for the excellent work they continue to do and for their hospitality and openness. Appreciation is extended to American Legion Post 23 and the local Elks lodge for providing lunch for the task force.

I look forward to the completed 2011 System Worth Saving Task Force Report and the section detailing the review of the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System.