Area Veterans Get Welcome News on Lamar VA Clinic Status

SRO for Veterans Town Hall Meeting



Mostly in their 60s and 70s, veterans from the Prowers County area attended an afternoon information forum at the County SOS Center last Tuesday, August 9th.  Several information booths were set up in the main meeting room and a self-contained info trailer was providing more brochures in the parking lot for several hours.

VA Information Van

There was a packed house, however, during the one-hour town hall meeting that started at 5:30 that afternoon.  Gary Harbert, Prowers County VSO and VA Representative said, “I thought there might be a healthy turnout, so I had about 120 chairs set up, but by the end, we needed more as we estimated around 150 persons were on hand to learn about the fate of the Lamar VA Clinic.”

Commissioners Tom Grasmick and Ron Cook

As had been published earlier, the Lamar and three other rural VA Clinics will not be closing in 2026 as had been anticipated.  VA ECHCS Director, Michael Kilmer, led the meeting and stated that the clinic is staying open, and the closure study has been put on pause. The AIR commission, Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission to modernize and realign the VA health care system, determined it will not take any actions on clinic closings at this time.

Harbert explained that two years from now, there will be a re-evaluation of the VA system.  “The VA Mission Act, which is a law, requires a study every four years, however there’s a discussion about removing that provision from the act so as not to have to repeat this process every four years.”  He added that one way communities and local clinics were trying to show their importance to a community was through the number of veterans who had signed up and registered.  “We’re at about 500 right now with several hundred who can still register, but we anticipate that by using telehealth technology, the veterans from metro areas who use this process with our local providers will be added along with our local count, perhaps raising it to around 900 in the future.”  Another important feature was having every one of the 64 counties in the state, sign a letter of support for the rural clinics which was also forwarded to the VA to heighten the impact of their potential loss.  Prowers County Commissioner, Wendy Buxton-Andrade, stated that it took a while to get most of the counties on board, while some of the larger counties, such as Mesa, signed on readily.

Kilmer told his audience that the VA, like many other hospitals around the country, faces a doctor and nurse shortage.  “We need at least 27 more providers in our system in Colorado,” he explained, adding that addition will help take some of the workload off the rest of the state staff.

With an expansion of some recent health benefit allowances, Harbert said he expected to see more veterans at his office.  “Hypertension and hypothyroidism are being opened for benefits.  If you’ve been exposed to Agent Orange, you need to come see me and apply with a claim for hypertension or high blood pressure.  A lot of my vets will qualify for this.”  He added he will be at the annual 911 Tribute on Saturday, September 10th at the county fairgrounds with a more comprehensive list of coverages.  “They’ve added 20 Gulf War conditions, including the recent passage of the PACT Act for burn pit exposure.  This is one of the biggest expansions in the VA health care system that has come out so far.”

One highlight of the town hall meeting was the presentation of a Challenge Coin to 102 year old, WW2 veteran, Milford Rasmussen who attended the session, accompanied by his family.  Rasmussen was an Army Air Force Sergeant from 1942-1945 and the coin was presented to him by David Callahan from the eastern Colorado VA healthcare organization.

Contact Gary Harbert at his office in the Prowers County Annex at 336-2606.  Call 1-800-MY-VA-411 for information on the coverage provided through the PACT Act.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: City of LamarCountyEventsFeaturedHealthHot Topics


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