Veterans voice concerns at VA town hall meeting

Veterans voice concerns at VA town hall meeting

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It was a chance for veterans to voice concerns, issues, or just say thanks at a town hall meeting at the Biloxi VA on Wednesday.

Dozens of veterans and their spouses or caregivers turned out to meet with doctors and VA officials. This comes as the administration works to fix the problems of backlogs and wait times that put the VA in the bulls eye last year.

Gulf Coast VA Director Anthony Dawson thinks these meetings are important for change to take place.

"I'm happy that they were open and frank with the concerns that they have. We have made tremendous progress over the past few years, but there's still some work to be done," Dawson said.

Air Force veteran Pierre Desjardins spoke at length during the meeting and hopes to see some change come as a result.

"I think the meeting went well. These type of things are never bad. They're good, but it depends on what comes out of it. If nothing comes out of it, then it was a terrible meeting. It was a waste of time. If something comes of it, then it was a great experience, and it was worth our time," Desjardins said. "This is the cost of war. This is the cost of our foreign policy, is these people. So, when they decide to do some type of military action or something, this is something that has to be factored in as the cost."

Dawson believes the Gulf Coast VA is moving in the right direction.

"Veterans are feeling as though they do not have a primary care provider assigned to them. No one to actually go to. This is why I'm tracking that data as we speak every day. This is the reason why I'm hiring individuals to come in and be providers on those specific teams," Dawson said.

A number of recent hires are expected to ease the concerns of veterans who aren't currently assigned to primary care providers.

While many speakers had concerns or complaints, others, like Preston Webb, credit the VA in Biloxi for saving lives.

"I had colon cancer, and within three weeks, I had a colonoscopy here, found cancer. Three weeks later, I had surgery. No chemo, no radiation. Got it very very early, so I was the lucky one," Webb said.

Dawson hopes Webb's experience is one that will extend to the rest of the veterans served by the VA on the Gulf Coast.

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