Lamborn says no problems at local VA, others beg to differ

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]S the Colorado Independent reported last week, Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado’s 5th Congressional District has been taking some heat in connection with the shortcomings of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system.

The issue was first stirred in the primaries, when Lamborn’s Republican challenger, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Bentley Rayburn, pointed out that Lamborn had missed more than half of House Veterans Affairs Committee meetings in the past two years. When further pressed, Lamborn provided a detailed list of scheduling conflicts and an assurance that staffers always take notes at meetings he can’t physically attend.

Rayburn also contended that Lamborn wasn’t adequately investigating whistleblowers’ complaints that the Colorado Springs VA clinic was fudging reports to make wait times appear shorter. Lamborn said he was looking into it, but so far had no reason to believe any wrongdoing had taken place. He reiterated that position last week to the Gazette, saying “I talked to the top (VA) people in Colorado Springs and Denver, and they assured me there are not secret waiting lists.”

An internal audit by the VA reveals that the Colorado Springs VA clinic “requires further review,” and is among 81 other clinics nationwide facing deeper probes into alleged misconduct.

On Monday, local TV station KRDO ran a story profiling a local Iraq War veteran, retired Army Capt. Don Martinez, who suffers from PTSD, sleep apnea and physical injuries. Martinez said he called Lamborn’s office in 2012 with concerns that he wasn’t receiving proper care from the Colorado Springs VA clinic, but never got any response from the congressman.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jay Magee, state coordinator for Point Man Ministries—an evangelical non profit “for veterans, by veterans”—said that sentiment among the veteran community about the local VA’s performance is mixed. “Some will tell you that it’s great. They get good care. Others say they hate the VA.”

Finding caregivers for disabled vets is a slow process, Magee noted, citing one instance in which a vet he knows had to wait between three and four months to get the care he needed. Unlike Martinez, Magee said he’s been impressed by communication with Lamborn’s office. “He’s pretty responsive,” Magee said of the congressman.

Lamborn’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming general election, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Irv Halter, continues to question whether the congressman has been responsive enough to the needs of nearly 100,000 veterans in the district. “It is inexcusable for Congressman Lamborn to ignore the veterans who live in our district,” Halter said.

Jarred Rego, spokesman for Rep. Lamborn, said the congressman would be unable to comment because he was attending a field hearing in New Mexico to address the challenges veterans living in rural areas face in getting health care.

A new VA clinic is set to open in Colorado Springs on Aug. 18 to handle the growing number of vets in the area seeking care.