Make your home page

Veterans voice medical care concerns at town hall meeting

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Veterans had an individualized chance to address problems they are having with medical care.

The Roudabush Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical center held a town hall meeting Thursday. It’s the third time it has organized one since new VA Secretary Robert McDonald mandated them last fall.

And according to some of the veterans in the crowd, it appears the third time was the charm.

The topics discussed sprung from the first two town hall meetings.

Organizers took some common themes and complaints they heard and made those the central focus of Thursday’s discussion. And the format this time made it more personal for the veterans, their families and the medical personnel who work with them.

Without even stepping into the meeting room, one could already tell Raymond Brown, a Vietnam War veteran, had a bone to pick with the VA. His voice was stern and his hands pounded the table as he made his points.

Brown had a procedure done at Eskenazi Health which he said went well. The problem was he got stuck with the bill. He said employees at Eskenazi kept asking for his Medicare card even though the bill should have been sent straight to the VA.

“The issue I want to look at is where the breakdown of information occurred,” said one of Roudebush’s financial experts who was talking to Brown.

Brown was glad he got the informal opportunity to address the issues he’s facing as he tries to get medical care. Normally, the town hall meetings are more of the open room event, with everyone raising their hands to speak. People like Brown chime in with their complaints, often talking over each other.

But this time, rooms were set aside allowing them to focus on specific problems.

“The one on one, breaking it down, it’s extremely good,” he said.

Financial matters were not the only issue addressed. Medical personnel complained about hold times and being rerouted when trying to call the VA. Some said they would be on the phone for several minutes before talking to the contact they were trying to reach.

“At the top of the list right now is our telephone communication,” said Tom Mattice, Roudebush’s director when asked about his main concerns. “We know that we have some issues there. We have plans in place to hire some additional staff to put into that area.”

Communication, finances and mental health were the topics addressed Thursday. The next step is coming up with solutions to make sure those same conversations don’t have to happen again.

“When I’m able to voice my concerns, they’re not only my concerns. They’re concerns of other veterans around me, other veterans across the United States,” said Brown.

In three months, another VA town hall meeting will be held in Terre Haute. Three months after that, a meeting geared towards female veterans will be hosted.