A recommendation has been made to close the Lamar VA Clinic by 2026, according to a review commissioned by the Veterans Mission Act of 2019. Similar clinics in La Junta, Burlington and Salida have also received a recommendation to close. The Lamar VA clinic has been operational since November 2014.
The recommendations stem from information gathered during a four-year national marketing assessment of all VA clinics nationwide, according to Michael Kilmer, VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System Director and Jonathan Kerr, VA ECHCS Strategic Planner. They and several other VA representatives presented the findings at a meeting for the general public, local health providers and city officials at an information seminar held at the Prowers County Annex on Wednesday. March 9th.and.
Kilmer said the study was conducted pursuant to the VA Mission Act of 2018 to examine current and future health care needs and to keep veterans at the center of VA health care services. The Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) report will be published on March 14and and is accessible through the Federal Register website.
Before any action is taken at the national level, the recommendations will go to various congressional committees before heading to a final vote for action by the House and Senate and the president. However, a Yes or No recommendation will be determined by February 15, 2023, based in part on public response.
Both Kilmer and Kerr told the rally that a strong demonstration of local input to keep rural clinics open will be considered. Prowers County Veterans Services Officer Gary Harbert said he has been working to increase the number of local veterans enrolled at the Lamar Clinic since taking the job. “We have about 400 veterans using the clinic, but that’s out of a total of 751 in this service area. The more veterans we can have using the facility, even just to register and have an annual medical exam, the more likely it is that the clinic will stay open,” he explained.
Kerr commented that some unregistered veterans feel that if they deny themselves the use of clinic services or VA systems, it puts less pressure on services and materials for those who are currently registered. “That’s not how it works,” he told the rally. “In fact, the more veterans who sign up, the more it indicates a need for additional services and materials that can be allocated where there is a demonstrable demand. If they want to help their veteran brothers and sisters, they must act within a year to register and be counted.
Local residents, health care providers and city officials will be asked to begin acting on recommendations to keep clinics open. The deadline for comments to the VA is January 30, 2023 and contact can be made with federalregister.gov or with a local representative. More specific information will be available in the future.
HR4673 – The 117th Congress (2021-2022) passed the House of Representatives on January 20and of this year, it states, “This bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to automatically enroll eligible veterans for VA health care into the VA health care system upon receipt of information from the Veterans Affairs data center. the defense workforce of the Department of Defense that proves the eligibility of these veterans for enlistment.
This is a step toward an assessment of the number of veterans using local VA clinics in their communities. Measures are being developed to launch an information campaign aimed at unregistered local veterans who are eligible to register with the VA to be added to the count.
Meeting attendees included: Kari Linker, Senator John Hickenlooper Eastern Plains Regional Representative, Sara Blackhurst, CEO of Agenda 22, Meagan Hillman, Prowers County Director of Public Health, Jared Crabtree Lamar Elks Veterans, Gary Harbert, Prowers County VSO, Tom Grasmick, Ron Cook and Wendy Buxton-Andrade, Prowers County Commissioners and others.
By Russ Baldwin