Craig veterans get answers to questions at town hall meeting

Lauren Blair
More than 50 vets gathered at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Craig Thursday night for a town hall meeting designed to answer questions and open lines of communication between vets and the Grand Junction Veterans Health Care System and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Lauren Blair

— Fifty-six veterans and their family members showed up to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Craig Thursday night for a town hall meeting.

Organized by the Grand Junction Veterans Health Care System and attended by representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs Denver office, as well as a representative from U.S. Rep Scott Tipton’s office, the meeting offered an opportunity for veterans to get answers to questions they had about benefits, including medical.

“If we don’t know about those things then we can’t fix them, so it’s just a way to get out there and be transparent and visible,” said GJVHCS Medical Center Director Marc Magill.

Questions ranged from whether the VA covers chiropractic visits and emergency room treatments to what the cost is for a nursing home for a veteran and his spouse. Some questions drew fairly simple answers while others required “about a 400-part answer,” according to Paul Sweeney, chief of Customer Relations and Public Affairs for the VA Medical Center.

“We will do everything possible that we can legally,” Magill said. “And if we can interpret it for the benefit of veteran, we will do that. It’s not a resource thing, it’s a law thing.”

Many veterans also had questions about the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, which attempted to ease backlogged claims and long wait times by allowing vets to seek health care from non-VA providers. It also allows veterans who live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility to receive care from participating, non-VA doctors and providers.

“The program itself is dependent on community providers,” said VA Choice specialist Ray Cardenas. “If the community doesn’t have providers that have opted into the Choice program, then Choice care is not available.”

Former Mayor and veteran Terry Carwile brought up The Memorial Hospital, which submitted paperwork for several of its doctors to participate in the Choice Act months ago. Cardenas answered that the paperwork had recently been finalized for those doctors, and also recommended to veterans to talk to their doctors about the Choice Act.

“The easiest way to get providers on board is through the veteran’s voice,” Cardenas said.

VWF quartermaster and Vietnam veteran Mark Wick said he felt the meeting was positive.

“It’s hard to address every individual need, but just knowing these people are here to serve our community and we can get in touch with them, that they’re hear to help us, I think that was the big message for this meeting,” Wick said.

For questions about the Choice Act, veterans are invited to contact Ray Cardenas at 970-263-2800, ext. 2555. For further questions and assistance, contact Paul Sweeney at 970-242-0731, ext. 2407 or by email at

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or

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