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Veterans Corner: Sen. Hirono talks with vets

Community Contributed

By Jesse Church

Aloha all my fellow veterans and residents of Molokai, old Jesse here with all the veterans news and upcoming events. U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono conducted a town hall meeting at our Veterans Center on Tuesday, Oct. 13. She was well-received by more than 60 veterans and family members in attendance. The biggest issue was timely health care for veterans on Molokai. There was a 30-minute informal discussion on the veterans Choice Card program by Dr. Sarah Kistler, Dept. of Veterans Affairs, and Karl Kiyokawa of TriWest Healthcare Alliance. They explained the choice card program and answered questions.

So many veterans are not getting health care appointments in a timely manner. If the VA cannot fit you in within 30 days, the Choice Card allows veterans to get care from non-VA health professionals. Many veterans were sent a card, but first you have to call the number listed to find out if you are eligible to use it. You have to live more than 40 miles away from a VA medical care facility to be eligible, so most Molokai veterans can use it. But a visit with a non-VA doctor has to be pre-approved by the VA for it to be paid for under the benefits. Now that we have a VA doctor on Molokai, you only use the Choice Card if you can’t get an appointment with a specialist in a timely manner. Often, Molokai veterans have to wait two to three months.

Many veterans I’ve talked to have problems with the card and are frustrated with the process, though in my personal experience it has worked OK. A VA representative who accompanied Sen. Hirono told us that the process for the Choice Card program has recently been streamlined by the VA, and we hope that will help the problems people have been having.

There was also a round-table discussion moderated by Longie Dudoit and Clay Park, both U.S. Army veterans. They were able to keep the communication flowing and orderly and got questions answered by the correct VA representatives.

Sen. Hirono spoke to veterans, family members and all in attendance for over one hour and said she has been working very hard on behalf of Hawaii’s veterans and families. I was impressed that she tried to talk with each veteran individually. She also distributed an informational package put together by her staff, which contains veterans bills that she is working on in Congress, and the top people at the VA she has spoken with in an effort to help right the wrongs at the VA, and a list of phone numbers veterans may need. On behalf of Molokai veterans, I would like to say mahalo to all who helped make the day a success. A special mahalo to Sen. Hirono and her staff for the work they did to prepare for the meeting and the work they do on our behalf.

I also thank Dr. Carlann DeFontes and the medical team for getting everyone immunized before and after the meeting with Sen. Hirono, mahalo Dr. DeFontes.

I again ask Molokai to support our service members wherever they may be stationed, at home or abroad, and for those in harm’s way, let’s pray for a safe and speedy return home. Please remember to call old Jesse at 553-3323 if you have information. I love everyone on Molokai from my heart, you are my family. See you next week, aloha.

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