Otero County Commissioners VS La Junta VA Clinic Closure

Description: (Press Play To Watch The Video Compilation) The Otero County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution opposing the closure of the La Junta VA Clinic during their regular public hearing on Monday, July 11, 2022.

Published: 07/11/2022
Byline: Hart

Otero County Commissioners Oppose La Junta VA Clinic Closure

The Otero County Commissioners took action on a resolution opposing the closure of the La Junta VA Clinic during their regular public hearing on Monday, July 11, 2022. 

The Otero County Commissioners Voted unanimously to pass the resolution opposing the closure of the La Junta VA Clinic in response to the Air Commission Report recommending the closure of four rural Colorado VA Clinics on March 23rd.

Local Veterans Advocate Jody Bracy spoke in support of the resolution during audience participation. She said that there is a lack of healthcare services for veterans in Southeast Colorado. They promised to keep the rural clinics open and fully staffed when they closed Fort Lyon, according to Bracy.

Commissioner Oquist said, "I'm not a veteran but most of my family is and I'm a proud American and whaterver we can do for the veterans we'll do everything that the three of us can do."

Commissioner Baldwin said, "We'll always support the veterans."

The Resolution Follows:

Resolution # 2022-07


WHEREAS, on March 23, 2022 the Notice of the Department of Veterans Affairs: Recommendations for Modernization or Realignment of Veterans Health Administration (VA) Facilities has recommended closure of the La Junta VA clinic by 2026; and

WHEREAS, the VA is accepting public comments until January 30, 2023; and

WHEREAS, the VA will be making a determination by February 15, 2023; and

WHEREAS, no matter where a veteran chooses to live and put down roots, the VA should be available; and

WHEREAS, our veterans all sacrificed together to keep us safe, and we should come together to keep their health safe; and

WHEREAS, VA closures send the wrong message to our youth that are interested in a career in the military; and

WHEREAS, VA closures decimate the morale of our veterans; and

WHEREAS, rural veterans play a vital role in the health and well-being of our small communities; and

WHEREAS, there are currently a majority of eligible veterans in the service area who use the La Junta VA clinic located at 1100 Carson Ave. #204 in La Junta, Colorado; and

WHEREAS, the closure of the La Junta VA clinic will have a negative effect on the veterans who live in Otero County; and

WHEREAS, rural healthcare facilities would not be able to absorb the veteran population due to the shortage of medical staff; and

WHEREAS, there are associated problems with veterans using private healthcare facilities which could cause a financial hardship for the veteran; and

WHEREAS, our aging veteran population would have difficulty making the long and expensive trip to Pueblo, Colorado Springs and/or Denver; and

WHEREAS, the wait times to access healthcare at the out-of-county facilities is expected to increase; and

WHEREAS, the rural areas lack adequate broadband access to utilize telehealth; and

WHEREAS, the closure of the La Junta VA clinic will have an adverse economic impact on Otero County.

BE IT RESOLVED by the County of Otero as follows:

1. The County of Otero OPPOSES the closure of the La Junta VA Clinic.

2. The County of Otero REQUESTS all eligible veterans who have a DD214 to immediately enroll at the La Junta VA clinic.

3. The County of Otero IMPLORES all elected leaders from southeastern Colorado to send their written comments to the VA to support the La Junta VA clinic.

4. The County of Otero CONCLUDES our veteran population must have face-to-face, local medical appointments available in La Junta.

ADOPTED this 11th Day of July, A.D., 2022.

Commissioner Oquist Motioned to accept the resolution, Commissioner Hostetler seconded, the motion passed unanimously.

During Departmental Reports, Otero and Bent County Veteran's Service Officer Rick Ward said there are 890 veterans who are enrolled or have applied for benefits. Since March 15th the office has filed 34 claims.

"I want to thank you for passing the resolution supporting keeping the clinics open," Ward said.

Ward said, "Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia released a statement at the end of June that he is not going to hold hearings on the nominees for the Air Commission. So with those hearings not being held, and those members not being referred by the Senate, the Air Commission Recommendations die on the vine."

Ward reported that he was still waiting for some information to come in from the Veterans Administration. 

Audience member Jody Bracy asked if Ward could explain the requirements for veterans to enroll in the Veterans Healthcare Programs.

"There is a multi-layered system to qualify, just because you are a veteran doesn't necessarily mean that you qualify." Ward said.

According to Ward, "The VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare is doing a meeting on August 10th in La Junta, this is not going to be like the meetings in the past where it's going to last an hour... This meeting is tentatively starting at 2:30 and lasting until 6:30 in the evening. The first three hours will be one on one time helping veterans with any issues they may be having."

He said, "From 5:30 - 6:30 Director Kilmer and Director Eastman with Eastern Colorado Healthcare will be holding an open forum to answer questions. They'll update us and where we are at with the Airs Commission, and what steps the secretary and director of veterans affairs will be taking." 

Otero Commissioner Elect Tim Knabenshue asked, "You mentioned 890 enrolled, so I'm guessing there's more, right?"

Ward said, "Yes, there are actually over a thousand veterans within Otero County."

Knabenshue asked, "I'm just wondering if there's active recruiting?"

Ward said, "A lot of it is word of mouth, I have been going to the American Legion post meetings here, I have it in my schedule to get to the other posts in the other communities..."

Knabenshue, "The bigger the footprint we have the better, of course you know that..."

Ward said, he had several plans for outreach through local media including a table at the Arkansas Valley Fair.

SECO News will have coverage and updates on this issue and the upcoming community meeting on August 10th.

Related Content:

VA Secretary Recommends Closure of Four Rural Colorado Clinics

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