Veterans open up about healthcare at VA’s open forum

Veterans open up about healthcare at VA’s open forum

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The quarterly Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System town hall at the Biloxi VA Medical Center drew a small crowd, but it has already started to make a big difference.

There were plenty of questions and concerns.

“We’ll see if it improves,” said Bryan Dewberry, a Marine Corps veteran. “I mean, I can’t say for sure, but if you don’t put it out there, you don’t give it time to go, it’s never going to happen.”

Dewberry suffered traumatic brain injury while serving in Afghanistan.

“I’m one of the high-functioning people, but there’s others I know that aren’t," he said.

He wanted to know what additional treatment beyond the standard protocol was available.

By design and to Dewberry's delight, administration professionals were in attendance to at least initial contact.

“I'm not necessarily surprised,” he said. “I’m pleased, absolutely.”

Big concerns continue to be access and wait time. GCVHCS director Bryan Matthews said things are improving with staffing increases.

“Of course, we want to be the provider of choice for veterans,” he said. “And so, we’re going to do everything we can to meet their expectations and make sure they have a good experience when they’re in our facility.”

Gary Ford, an Army veteran in the PTSD program, has had a good experience. He added that meetings are only as good as what happens afterward.

“The system that I was in in a different VA wasn’t really responsive to any concerns,” he said. “So, we had town hall meetings, we had all these veterans focus groups, but nothing ever really got picked up from the things that were brought up in the meeting. And a place like this, to say they are responsive is a little bit of an understatement. The people here actually care.”

Dewberry said that while the VA needs to be reactive, veterans also need to help in the process.

“You’ve got to get past the anger and painting with broad strokes, which a lot of people do,” he said. “You’ve got to take a little time, have a little patience. and understand there is a process.”

While officials said this is a public forum particularly for veterans receiving health care services from the VA, all veterans were invited to find out what benefits they have.

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