Town hall take:Vet services improving, but more is needed

Health care for retired and former military service personnel has been documented as woefully inadequate in recent years, with incidents of incompetence and poor performance spotlighted.

Local veterans were not exempt from the shortcomings.

The good is that a recent town hall in downtown Williamsport on veterans health care services revealed that operations, including those at the community-based, out-patient health clinic in the city, are improving.

Some veterans were openly complimentary. That’s what we want to hear. Promises have been made to better modernize health care services and regain the trust of veterans in the system. Those promises must be kept.

To that end, the Veterans Administration has been striving to centralize some functions and upgrade electronic health records. The Williamsport clinic’s 8 percent increase in patient visits in the past year for primary and mental health care suggests the efforts are bearing fruit.

But one veteran complained of phone communications being woefully slow when calling to seek help for health care issues.

Other problems raised included confusion over which veteran’s affairs office to contact for learning about health care services. Each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties has a VA office.

One Iraqi war veteran described being bounced from “one situation after another” when seeking assistance.

Another veteran complained about the lack of space and a handicapped entrance.

A Stop the Line program empowers VA employees to speak up if they see a risk to patient safety. We hope that’s happening at the local level.

It appears services are getting better but the vigilance needs to be ongoing.

When it comes to government services, our local veterans, many of whom have had their lives significantly altered by service to our country, deserve to be at the front of the line, not the back.