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News from everywhere *but* Central New Hampshire.

Kuster Urges 'Realistic' Expectations for North Country VA Health Care

Peter Biello
Rep. Annie Kuster (center) speaks alongside White River Junction, Vt. VA Medical Center Director Al Montoya (right).

Congresswoman Annie Kuster says the government hasn't been able to keep its promise to provide military veterans with their health care under all circumstances.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion in Berlin Friday, Kuster says the U.S. should keep that promise, but its not realistic to have Department of Veterans Affairs clinics in every location.

Her comments came in response to a complaint about the VA's closing of two part-time clinics in Berlin and Colebrook.

Kuster says the clinic in Colebrook wasn't serving enough people. The mobile medical unit that had been operating on Wednesdays in Berlin was able to serve six veterans per day.

"So what we're trying to do is come up with something that will provide VA-centered care, that will provide that camaraderie, that connection," she says.

The VA announced in December that veterans using those part-time clinics in Berlin and Colebrook would be put on Veterans Choice, a program that allows veterans to get care from private hospitals and medical centers. That program has been plagued with bureaucratic problems.

What sets the North Country's system apart is something called the "case management model." The VA in White River Junction, Vt. has put case managers in the North Country to help veterans with any health care access problems.

Still, patient advocate and nurse Carol Anne Jordan says she's worried about losing the camaraderie that comes with VA care.

"We have more than enough resources to give these veterans what they need with maintaining the brotherhood and the sisterhood to those who have served," Jordan says. "There is no excuse."

The VA says it has reached out to the 300 veterans in the North Country who qualify for care under the case management model.

Kuster says she would like to hold a town hall meeting for North Country vets when the system is working well.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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