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February 23, 2014
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Editorial: Telling veterans to pipe down will only fire them up

Anyone who’s been in charge of a public entity, a nonprofit organization or a business has likely had similar experiences to Carol Bogedain, director of the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

She’s defending a VA decision that’s unpopular with veterans. She’s listened to their complaints. She’s explained why the decision was made. Yet, they won’t shut up.

Instead, veterans have worked harder to raise awareness of their top-priority issue in an expanding number of forums.

Here’s what they’re saying: The Douglas County Veterans Forum, which represents 18 local veterans groups and 5,000 veterans, wants the Roseburg VA to be a full-service hospital — the only one of its kind between Portland and San Francisco. The first step in doing that is to get the intensive care unit reopened because far too many surgeries needed by veterans can’t be performed without the existence of an ICU.

The forum has elected Jim Little as its president four straight years. They rely on him to spread that message.

Veterans tell him they want the health care they were promised and deserve for defending their country, and they want to receive it at a veterans hospital, where their needs are understood.

They see an increased need for veterans care in the future. A state veterans retirement home with 200 beds has been approved for the VA campus. Eagle Landing, a housing development for homeless veterans, has already opened on the VA grounds.

Korean and Vietnam veterans are aging and in need of more care. The first Gulf War, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the Affordable Care Act may drive more veterans to seek care from the VA as well.

Veterans have been pleased with Bogedain since she arrived in 2011 and believed she could sway decision-makers at the regional headquarters to step up the services at the VA. After all, 25 percent of the VA hospitals nationwide in similarly rural communities have ICUs. They figure, why not Roseburg?

The faith veterans put in Bogedain is what she needs to appreciate and act upon.

Explaining the VA’s reasoning doesn’t make the issue go away. Nor does telling them she doesn’t want to hear about it anymore, and that she won’t attend their meetings.

Bogedain is a highly compensated public official paid by the taxpayers; listening is part of her job.

Veterans aren’t blaming her for the ICU closure that occurred before she arrived. The VA’s tactic for quieting them, however, is less than comforting.

Roseburg VA Chief of Staff Chip Taylor believes veterans should back off on their push for reopening the ICU and accept that patients will get better results at Roseburg’s Mercy Medical Center instead.

Yet, that declaration comes while we still wait on the investigation into Sgt. Ray Velez’s death last summer. He’s the veteran who died while en route to a Springfield hospital following complications from a hernia surgery at the Roseburg VA.

The investigation needs to reveal why Velez wasn’t taken to Mercy last summer, when that hospital later claimed it had room for him.

It’s clear Bogedain needs to provide answers to the veterans and maintain communication with them, even when she doesn’t like their message.

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The News-Review Updated Feb 26, 2014 01:39PM Published Feb 23, 2014 12:04AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.