Lamar VA Clinic Recommended for Closure, One of Several in Eastern Colorado


A recommendation has been made to close the Lamar VA Clinic by 2026, according to a review commissioned by the 2019 Veteran’s Mission Act.  Similar clinics in La Junta, Burlington and Salida have also received a recommendation of closure.  The Lamar VA Clinic has been in operation since November, 2014.

The recommendations stemmed from information gathered during a nationwide, four-year marketing assessment of all VA clinics in the country, according to Michael Kilmer, Director of the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System and Jonathan Kerr, the VA ECHCS Strategic Planner.  They and several other VA representatives presented the findings during a meeting held for the general public, local health providers and municipal representatives during an informational seminar conducted at the Prowers County Annex this past Wednesday, March 9th.

Kilmer said the study was conducted in accordance with the VA Mission Act of 2018 to review current and future health care needs and keep veterans at the center of the VA health care services.  The Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) report will be published on March 14th and is accessible through the Federal Register website.

Before any action is taken on a national level, the recommendations will be forwarded to various congressional committees before it heads for 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 gathering that a strong show of local input to keep rural clinics open will be taken into consideration.  Prowers County Veterans Service Officer (VSO), Gary Harbert said he has been working to increase the number of local veterans who are registered with the Lamar Clinic since he has held the position.  “We have about 400 veterans who use the clinic, but that’s from a total of 751 in this service area.  The more veterans we can have make use of the facility, if only to register and have an annual physical, the more that increases the chances of the clinic remaining open,” he explained.

Kerr offered a comment that some unregistered veterans are under the impression that if they deny themselves use of the clinic or VA systems services, that puts less of a drain on services and materials for those currently registered.  “That’s not the way this works,” he told the gathering.  “In fact, the more veterans that sign up shows an indication of need for additional services and materials that can be allocated where there is a shown demand.  If they want to help their brother and sister veterans, they need to act within this year to register and be counted.”

Local residents, health care providers and municipal representatives will be urged to begin to address the recommendations in an effort to keep the clinics open.  The deadline for comments to the VA is January 30, 2023 and contacts may be made to the or to a local representative.  More specific information will be made available in the future.

H.R.4673 — 117th Congress (2021-2022) passed the House of Representatives on January 20th of this year, it states, “This bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to automatically enroll veterans who are eligible for VA health care into the VA health care system upon the receipt of information from the Defense Manpower Data Center of the Department of Defense that proves eligibility of such veterans for enrollment.”

This is one step towards an assessment of how many veterans are making use of local VA clinics in their communities.  Steps are being formulated to begin an information campaign directed at local unregistered veterans who are eligible to sign up with the VA to be added to the count.

Those attending the meeting included: Kari Linker, Sen. John Hickenlooper Eastern Plains Regional Representative, Sara Blackhurst, Action 22 CEO, Meagan Hillman, Prowers County Public Health Director, Jared Crabtree Lamar Elks Veterans, Gary Harbert, Prowers County VSO, Tom Grasmick, Ron Cook and Wendy Buxton-Andrade, Prowers County Commissioners and others.  Contact Gary Harbert, Prowers County VSO for details on how local residents can participate to keep the Lamar VA Clinic open.  Call 719-336-2606.  Veterans can also use the website to register.
By Russ Baldwin

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