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Veterans' health care, national cemetery focus of Colorado Springs town hall

By: Tony Peck
February 21, 2018 Updated: February 21, 2018 at 9:29 pm
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photo - Concerned Veterans for America Executive Director Dan Caldwell during a town hall with Colorado Springs residents Wednesday night.
Concerned Veterans for America Executive Director Dan Caldwell during a town hall with Colorado Springs residents Wednesday night. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs' continuing struggles to eliminate wait times and meet demands for mental health care were discussed at a town hall in Colorado Springs Wednesday night.

The town was hosted by Concerned Veterans for America and U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.

Central to the discussion was Lamborn's "Veterans Empowerment Act," introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

"The bill throws out the idea of acceptable patient wait times and eliminates the requirement of the veteran to ask for VA permission to use civilian medical providers," the Colorado Springs Republican explained in a statement last year. "It gives veterans full authority to use the existing VA system or not."

Dan Caldwell, executive director of the veterans group, was quick to point out that the bill would not privatize the veteran health care system, something the group does not support.

While the bill would help alleviate some of the issues faced by Veterans Affairs, Lamborn believes more work is needed.

"We haven't finished with addressing some of the systemic problems," he said.

Other issues raised are the distance some have to travel to get treatment at a VA hospital, particularly for mental health care and PTSD.

"The VA is maybe overwhelmed with the job they have to do," Lamborn said. "The personal touch is so important to treat PTSD and mental health in general."

He believes "options" would allow veterans to find that personal touch.

At the end of the evening Lamborn announced that the Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs which is still under construction will have a dedication ceremony in May.

The $31 million project will honor the service of Colorado veterans and will accommodate almost 100,000 burial plots by the time of its completion, according to a statement from Lamborn's office.

"Our region is home to 80 percent of the state's veterans," Lamborn said in a release. "We're long overdue for a local cemetery to honor our veterans and provide a final resting place to America's heroes."

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