HERRIN -- About 30 area veterans gathered at the American Legion Post 645 in Herrin Monday evening for a town hall discussion about the quality of health care they receive at their local VA facility in Marion.
Representatives from the American Legion Department of Illinois, and the American Legion national headquarters in Washington, D.C., joined Marion VAMC Director JoAnn Ginsberg to listen to veterans and answer questions they had about the facility's services.
Several veterans spoke up praising the care they received at the facility.
Others had concerns regarding insurance copays and the inability to get prescriptions written by private physicians filled at the VA.
Ginsberg explained that all prescriptions filled at the VAMC must be written by VA physicians.
"These doctors can't just write a prescription from another provider," she said. "They don't know the history, the test results … it might not be a diagnosis they agree with," she said. "This is their license, their livelihood."
She also explained that, like other private sector facilities, the VA only stocks certain medications. "If it has a short shelf life, we probably don't keep it," she said.
She added that some higher-cost medications can be replaced with others that will do the same thing.
Ginsberg said that no facility can stock every medication and the VAMC is no different from private sector facilities in that regard.
One problem Ginsberg agreed needs to be remedied is what she described as an "antiquated" system used for scheduling.
One veteran told her he is often scheduled for various tests at different times, sometimes having multiple tests in the same office days apart, causing him to repeatedly miss work.
Ginsberg explained that with the current computer system, different clinics and departments are not able to see the scheduling of one another.
"Our scheduling system is antiquated," she said, noting it was something she is working on.
She also, though, explained that some of the scheduling is limited as some clinics are only open on certain days.
Ginsberg also noted that the facility continues to have problems recruiting and retaining staff, something she said is common throughout the medical industry.
"We are limited by an act of Congress on what we can pay," she said, but noted that the Marion VAMC has hired 243 additional staff members.
Veterans who were unable to attend the town hall can leave comments about the Illinois VA Health Care System by submitting an email to IL.firstname.lastname@example.org.