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Press Editorial: Veterans deserve clarity on medical care issue

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editorials Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

The end of a contract for a local clinic where many area veterans get medical care has brought a number of questions and concerns to the forefront.

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Among the people left in the dark about what happens when the Veterans Affairs contract with Great Plains Clinic ends May 1, is the area's own veteran service officer, who has been inundated with questions from veterans.

Of all the people who need to know the details is the go-to person veterans look to for information.

Leslie Ross, Stark/Dunn County veteran service officer, said she hasn't been told what the backup plan is if another contract isn't signed.

She told The Dickinson Press, "I don't even know what to tell a veteran who comes in here today who wants to get into VA health care."

Officials haven't elaborated on plans for veterans' care once the change takes place. This is the worst part: No one knows what is going on, or at least no one is saying.

About 800 letters were sent to area veterans last week explaining the options until a new contract is determined. A letter is supposed to be sent to veterans this week outlining what to do if medical care is needed after May 1.

The Press was not able to obtain the letter and can only hope that the information provided puts minds at ease.

"Access to health care is paramount to success for veterans," Ross said.

Ross said city and county governments are aware of the possible predicament and state congressional leaders and house members have also been contacted.

Ross said while she is a county employee and not directly a VA employee, the VA had "no reason really to tell" her.

Instead, Great Plains Administrator Mark Grove advised Ross of the clinic's intention not to solicit a bid, she said.

"I can't imagine that the VA would completely disregard southwest North Dakota in a way that they are doing right now," Ross said. "If it wouldn't have come out in the paper, can you imagine, that would have been the first warning they got that the Dickinson Clinic would've been closing is that letter."

When contacted by The Press, Great Plains referred the reporter to the Fargo Veterans Affairs Medical Center for comment. Alas, the Fargo Veterans Affairs Medical Center referred the reporter to Great Plains for comment. Result, no information.

As May 1 creeps closer, we urge those who know what the future holds to let the veterans in on the details. Even if it isn't what anybody wants to hear, at least it will clear up what has turned into a somewhat disquieting situation.

How long did Veterans Affairs know that this was coming up and why sit on it until February when word began spreading of the expiring contract? Turning backs to such an important issue will not make it go away.

VA officials need to release as much information as they have until other arrangements for veterans' care can be made.

These are the people who unselfishly gave, and continue to give, so much to take care of us. Now let's make sure we take care of them.

-- The Dickinson Press Editorial Board meets weekly to discuss issues

of importance to the community.

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