Our view: Living up to our promise to vets | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Living up to our promise to vets







Even as members of Congress are understandably preoccupied this month by the debate over the American Health Care Act, the clock is ticking on a Veterans Administration program that is of particular importance to military veterans in Northwest Colorado. It's a federal program that provides healthcare options for vets like ours, who live more than 150 miles from the VA hospitals in Denver and Grand Junction.

Our view:

Northwest Colorado should be proud of Steamboat Springs area rancher Jim Stanko for his role in lobbying Congress to extend funding for the Veterans Administration's Choice Program.

We continue to be proud that Routt County's own Jim Stanko, a Vietnam vet who served in Germany, is playing a prominent role in lobbying members of both the House of Representatives and Senate to renew the Choice Program.

It is the Choice Program that allows veterans here, whose healthcare is covered by the Veterans Administration, to avoid the extra trouble and expense of driving to a VA Hospital hours away from home. Some wounded vets cannot drive themselves, and family members and friends who do transport them are apt to incur the expense of meals and lodging in a larger city.

The Choice Program also allows local vets to have their visits to a private physician covered when they are told they will have to wait more than 30 days to see a VA physician.

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The urgency felt by Stanko, who is the adjutant of American Legion Post 44 and also vice chairman of the American Legion's National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, is that funding for the Choice Program is due to lapse in August. In late February, he made his ninth trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress, where he expressed his concern about the future of the Choice Program to members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Stanko and his fellow delegates were gratified to find there was strong bipartisan support for extending Choice Program funding.

Steamboat Today reported March 15 that, a week earlier, the house committee gave its approval for bills to extend and expand the Choice Program, as well as a bill to provide for more accountability of VA managers. The proposed legislation goes next to the full House of Representative for passage. Similar bills are working their way through the Senate.

Steamboat Today has learned that about $950 million remains in the Choice Program. And as there was in the House committee, there is bipartisan support in the Senate for extending the program. Senators from Arizona, Montana, Georgia, Kansas, Hawaii and Connecticut introduced the Veterans Choice Program Improvement Act to ensure the monies are available to veterans beyond the expiration date of Aug. 7.

At a time when the machinations of Congress are difficult to grasp, it's reassuring to know that essential benefits for our military veterans, and particularly benefits that make a significant difference in rural regions, are not being overlooked and enjoy bipartisan support.

It's especially gratifying that one of our own is helping to lead the effort.

At issue:

Making sure military veterans in lightly populated areas of the U.S. retain the ability to consult a private physician when V.A. hospitals are too busy or too far away.

Our view:

Northwest Colorado should be proud of Steamboat Springs area rancher Jim Stanko for his role in lobbying Congress to extend funding for the Veterans Administration’s Choice Program.

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