Western Slope needs VA rep, 
vets tell Udall

Sen. Mark Udall meets with businessman and veterans.

Western Colorado veterans are getting short shrift from the Department of Veterans Affairs when it comes to helping them understand the status of their claims, veterans told Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., on Saturday.

More than two dozen veterans and representatives of veterans organizations said representatives sent out from the regional service center in Denver are overwhelmed by requests when they visit communities west of the Continental Divide.

“We need a VA representative here,” Dave Dunnagan, hospital-services coordinator for the Disabled American Veterans said.

Udall met with the group Saturday morning in the training room of the Grand Junction Police Department.

It’s frustrating for veterans who have pending claims because the VA does business by mail and doesn’t provide regular updates, Dunnagan said.

Phone contact doesn’t work because “You cannot reach the Denver VA office from here,” he said.

There has been little movement toward giving veterans electronic access to their accounts, meaning that veterans have to rely on benefits administrators to keep them updated.

Administrators, however, can only get that information if they are given limited powers of attorney from veterans, and to do that, the veterans must meet personally with administrators, said Dunnagan. That can be difficult for veterans who live in rural areas, especially in the winter, he said.

Representatives who travel across the divide for meetings are inundated with veterans needing information or to establish ways to monitor claims, he said.

Udall said he would look into the issue, noting that package shippers such as FedEx and UPS “can track a package wherever it is. Why can’t we do that with veterans?”


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