VA: Only 30 percent of veterans use benefits, push to change that at town hall

ANNVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) – The Lebanon VA Medical Center held a town hall for veterans Thursday at Fort Indiantown Gap.

Those at the event said only 30 percent of veterans use VA healthcare, but that’s something they hope to change.

“Several years ago, I started having neuropathy issues and the doctors diagnosed it as possibly coming from exposure to Agent Orange. They’re basically treating it that way,” said Chief Master Sgt. (Ret.) Randy Eckert, U.S. Air Force.

Eckert served in the Vietnam War. Those with the VA said many veterans from his era are not using their benefits, thinking it would take them away from younger veterans. Others prefer private healthcare even if they have to pay more. They hope more older veterans use the benefits they’ve earned.

“That’s so important that a veteran gets the right care at the right time in the right manner, so we have expanded clinical hours into the evenings. We’ve expanded clinical hours into Saturdays,” said Douglas Etter, a spokesman for the Lebanon VA Medical Center.

Some questions at the town hall included access to primary care, acute care, and specialty care in Lebanon, as well as mental health care and the choice program.

“There’s a lot of things veterans don’t understand about veteran’s benefits, so I came here today to try and learn a little bit and I can pass it onto my friends,” Eckert said.

“The nation is very supportive of America’s veterans,” Etter said. “They recognize that the men and women who raise their right hand and take a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the Unites States deserve the best that we can offer.”

For more information on benefits for veterans, click here.

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