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Veterans may seek private care until new clinic opens

Press Photo by Beth Wischmeyer Greg Remus, national service officer with the Disabled American Veterans, speaks during an informational meeting regarding veteran's benefits Tuesday at the Stark County Courthouse.

Two options were announced Tuesday for Dickinson-area veterans requiring medical care after May 1, following the announcement that the community-based outpatient clinic providing care to veterans in the area would be closing its doors and no word yet on where it will be relocated.

After Great Plains Clinic, PC in Dickinson chose not to renew its contract with Veterans Affairs, which expires May 1, veterans and veteran officials were left with questions regarding care beyond that date.

At a Disabled American Veterans Department of North Dakota informational meeting regarding veterans benefits held Tuesday evening at the Stark County Courthouse, Greg Remus, national service officer with the DAV, said there were two temporary options for veterans announced Tuesday by the Fargo Department of Veterans Affairs: Reassignment to another VA clinic or requesting an authorization letter from the VA to receive care at a private provider within the Dickinson area.

Remus said these options are temporary and said in his opinion they are "not acceptable," but said he feels the VA wants to find a solution.

"They want to get a fix (to this problem)," Remus said Tuesday.

Leslie Ross, Stark/Dunn County veteran service officer, said she has been in contact with Sen. Byron Dorgan's office regarding the issue of the clinic.

Ross reiterated that those who want to use the option to seek care in the private sector need to receive authorization from the VA first, before booking appointments.

A Tuesday press release from Veterans Affairs stated the option of veterans utilizing services at a private sector "will be discontinued when the VA develops a long-term primary care presence in the Dickinson area."

There are still questions lingering over how items such as prescriptions will be handled if veterans choose to temporarily receive care from the private sector, she added.

Richard J. Rykowsky, adjutant with the DAV Dickinson chapter eight, said there have been some concerns voiced throughout the chapter about where to go for care.

"We were promised a clinic," Rykowsky said. "We hope this can get resolved and resolved quickly so veterans don't have to travel hundreds of miles."

In addition to touching on the future of health care for veterans in Dickinson, Remus also outlined some information regarding veteran's benefits.

As far as he's aware, there aren't any changes to veteran's benefits with the new health care bill, he added.

VA compensation, survivor benefits, burial benefits and home loan guaranty were a few of the topics touched on during the meeting Tuesday.

Remus said anyone with questions regarding veteran's benefits can contact Ross at 701-456-7654 or Kay Zenker, Hettinger County veteran's service officer, at 701-563-4425.