BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - There are many issues veterans would like to see addressed. Access and wait time are at the top of that list.
In the past, some may have felt their concerns were met with apathy at town hall meetings. But, not on Thursday.
"This is the third town hall meeting that I've attended," Becky Montgomery said. "It's the first one where I felt the VA staff really made an effort to address the needs and concerns of the veterans."
It was at least the third town hall at the Biloxi VA Center and was provided by Veterans Affairs Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System officials. The five VA centers in the region take turns with the meetings, hosting one every two months.
Officials wanted to provide specific guidance, but also, an empathetic ear. Interim VA director Christopher Saslo says the issues are improving, and he's on a mission to change the culture.
"I'm hoping that as an organization....we continue to move forward with improving our access and improving our efforts to engage the veterans in a more positive way," Saslo said. "That we're going to start to see a shift in the responses from our veterans so that they're seeing the improvements rather than the numbers just showing the improvements."
Kevin Cuttill with Crusaders for Veterans attended the forum on behalf of a friend.
"Once you get out with a public forum, you bring it out to the light," Cuttill said. "So, it gives the top dog, the administrator, a chance to say, 'OK, this wasn't brought to me before. I don't know what's going on. Let's deal with this.'"
The forum also included stations where veterans could get complete answers to questions.
"I think this little forum that we had today was most, most, most essential," said veteran Francis Gilbert Ward. "People these days don't realize what it means for these young men then to say, 'My life doesn't count. It's for my country.'"
The next town hall in Biloxi should be in about six months.