OK Senator To Put Focus On Improving Veteran Health Care

Friday, November 11th 2016, 10:34 pm
By: News On 6

Just about every community in Oklahoma celebrated Veterans Day with parades and other events.

Now the focus switches to better access to healthcare for veterans, and one Oklahoma congressman says he’s ready to work with President-elect Trump to reform the VA system.

Friday, Collinsville dedicated a memorial honoring veterans front and center. Now, every time you drive downtown you'll be reminded of their sacrifice and service to our country.

When the parades wrap up and the flags get taken down, veterans say they fall back into the shadows - especially when it comes to their health care.

"It would be nice to see changes come to that where the leadership of the VA is held accountable for their actions," said veteran Richard Wiehe.

Wiehe is a member of the Collinsville VFW and served with the Air Force.

"I served 14-and-a-half years for freedom, so that's my calling," he said.

Oklahoma's senators say they have a plan to fix the VA by giving veterans better access to doctors and treatments outside of the government run system.

Senator James Lankford said, "In World War II it looked like brick and mortar buildings and everyone going to VA centers, now we have a large quantity of really great hospitals scattered around the country, and I would say a greater choice for Veterans is a better option than the World War II era VA centers were."

Lankford said fixing the VA won't happen with the passing of one bill, he said it could take decades to get veterans access to private hospitals and clinics.

"We have a lot of buildings, and when you have a lot of buildings there's a lot of focus on maintaining buildings rather than maintaining veterans. I would like the transition to be less about maintaining the bureaucracy and the buildings and more about maintaining the health of our veterans," he said.

That's something Wiehe would also like to see.

"I think you should be able to do that. Like here in Oklahoma, for Tulsa area, northeast Oklahoma, we have to travel to Muskogee. Western Oklahoma, they have to travel to Oklahoma City. You may have to travel three, four, five hours for medical care from the VA," he said.