In a town hall with veterans Friday, March 23, Congressman French Hill heard about, and exchanged ideas with, those dealing with post-service issues, notably in navigating the VA Health Care System. The event was held in the Fairfield Bay Conference Center.

Following the informal lunch Hill, representing Arkansas' 2nd District, opened with a brief statement about the veterans issues his office was fielding. He was specifically interested in hearing how those present felt about the VA Choice program, which was designed to allow veterans to use health care providers in their community, outside the VA system.

“How do people feel about the program?” Hill asked.

Following was an orderly process as veterans described their interaction with the VA, including, but not limited to, the Choice program.

Slow payment issues were brought up, where delays in VA payment led to issues with veterans being “stuck with the bill” pending VA action. This was coupled with becoming caught in the VA system and bills never getting paid, again leaving the veteran responsible for payment. This included problems with doctors not able to receive VA payments.

Hill did point out an initiative to bring the VA system into the Department of Defense system, but to avoid gaps in coverage as take place when a veteran transfers from active duty to the VA system.

Opioids, or ultimately pain management, was another topic important to those gathered. The VA had recently rolled way back in prescribing opioids, Hill explained to the group, which had the unintended consequence of leaving some suffering chronic pain without medication. This led to an exchange, at times veteran to veteran, of both alternative pain management strategies including VA-run clinics designed to manage pain outside the use of opioids.

Hill spoke to the vets about his working to create a drug registry for VA use in order to better manage prescription methodology.