Veterans in Curry County are being told there is hope for their health care needs.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Roseburg Health Care System Director Keith Allen is meeting with veterans throughout the region over the next few months to outline how the VA is now addressing the health care issues of veterans.

“The one thing that I hope the most is that they’ll understand that we are rebuilding and that I really want the veterans to chose the VA,” Allen said. “I want to provide health care to the veterans.”

During a town hall Wednesday night, Nov. 20, at the Curry campus of Southwestern Oregon Community College in Brookings, Allen acknowledged that the rebuilding will be a challenging effort.

“We understand that health care in rural areas is scarce and the community is becoming saturated, so it is going to be a struggle for us and we are looking to see how we are going to do that,” he said.

Allen said the plan includes partnering with community organizations to improves health care series and access to physicians.

“We are really working to recruit physicians to come here and stay here,” Allen said.

One aspect of that effort will be partnering with Mercy Hospital in Roseburg, allowing interns to connect with the veterans administration health care training.

“Hopefully, by exposing them to the VA health care system, and what we have to offer, we will be able to keep some of those interns and rotate them through the rural facilities,” he said.

Allen also acknowledges the area’s affordable housing challenge poses another issue.

“But I can mitigate some of that with pay incentives and different bonus packages to bring people here,” he said. “The thing I can’t do is compete with the private sectors as far as salaries go. So I really have to focus on people who have the same passion for caring for veterans. If they have the same passion for the mission, I have a better chance of recruiting them.”

Allen said the new approach to veterans health care coverage will take time and money.

“But we do have the backing and support of our local partners and of our Congressional partners,” he said. “They are committed to do what it takes to help our veterans.”

Allen said Congress has mandated a market assessment to determine the amount of money it will take to fund the new approach to veterans health care. A VA contractor is scheduled to come to the area next summer to conduct the health care assessment that will determine that amount.

“With that comprehensive report, we will need to balance what we can do with how we can partner services with the local community that aren’t available,” Allen said.

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