Newhouse discusses veterans’ issues at Tonasket event

Katie Teachout/staff photo Representative Dan Newhouse listens to concerns presented by veteran Gina Garcia of Tonasket on delays in using the Veterans' Choice Program

Katie Teachout/staff photo
Representative Dan Newhouse listens to concerns presented by veteran Gina Garcia of Tonasket on delays in using the Veterans’ Choice Program

TONASKET — Congressional Representative Dan Newhouse appeared at a VA Health and Benefits Resource Fair held at Tonasket High School from noon to 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 28. Newhouse was accompanied by Army Veteran Ryan McDonald, District Representative assigned to assisting veterans.

“We’re trying to improve things through Congress, and it helps to hear what people are dealing with,” said Newhouse. “In lieu of the recently closed Veterans’ Clinic, it’s important for people to know what resources are out there.”

“It was nice to be able to talk to him about issues we are facing as veterans here in Tonasket,” said veteran Gina Garcia.

The Fair was designed to assist veterans in accessing resources from the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center and other medical resources, with benefits counselors present.

Garcia said Kevin Ginter, in attendance from Mann-Granstaff VA Medical Center (kevin.ginter@va.gov), is “very knowledgeable about the Veterans Choice program.”

Also on hand were representatives from several social service agencies to inform veterans of services available to them, including DSHS Aging and Long-Term Care, Department of Veterans Affairs Choice Champions, Department of Veterans Affairs Rural Veteran Coordinator, the Housing Authority of Okanogan County, Okanogan Behavioral Healthcare, Okanogan County Community Action Council, the Okanogan County Veteran Service Office, Washington Female Veterans and Worksource Okanogan Veterans Program.

“Lael Duncan of Okanogan County Community Action Council was interested in hearing about us as veterans, and areas we need help in,” said Garcia. Duncan is available at laeld@occac.com.

“If you didn’t go, you missed a lot,” said Garcia. “My main issues were about the Veterans Choice, and how the billing is being handled. It is very obvious to me after talking to all these people that the main issue most of us wanted to talk to them about was Veterans Choice. Confluence Health, Providence Medical Group, they all need training in how to bill. Despite what is being said here in Tonasket, billing needs to be addressed because as veterans we should not be the ones having to figure all this out, especially those who are disabled. I am hoping that Congressman Newhouse and the VA have seen there is a common issue here in Okanogan County. More education is needed and there should be no reason why veterans are doing the legwork to fix the billing errors being made by these providers.”

Newshouse’s office can assist veterans with expediting VA claims, help veterans with benefits paperwork, provide assistance for service members returning home from active duty, help with navigating VA healthcare claims including CHOICE Act, assist veterans in applying for medals they are entitled to receive, help with obtaining Cold War Recognition Certificates, assisting with GI Bill matters and recognizing Vietnam veterans with the Congressional Vietnam Veterans commemorative pin.

Additional veterans resources include the VA Readjustment Counseling Service at www.va.gov/rcs, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs at 1-800-562-2308 and a 24-Hour National Veteran Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Newhouse was scheduled to address local agriculture, recreation and tribal groups on issues regarding the U.S. Forest Service later Monday afternoon in Omak.

Newhouse can be reached in Washington, D.C. at 202-225-5816, in Yakima at 509-425-3243 or in Richland at 509-713-7374.

Veterans’ assistant Ryan MacDonald can be reached in Richland at 509-713-7374 or by email at Ryan.macdonald@mail.house.gov.