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Huelskamp continues support for veterans
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Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp talks at a town hall meeting on Thursday afternoon at the Chamber of Commerce building in Larned. - photo by JIM MISUNAS Great Bend Tribune

LARNED — Slowly but surely, Congressman Tim Huelskamp believes conservatives like himself are making headway.
After retired House Speaker John Boehner dismissed him from a key agricultural committee, Huelskamp is serving on the Veterans Affairs Committee and he’s chairman on the subcommittee for economic growth and tax and capital access in the small business committee.
Attendees were pleased to learn about Huelskamp’s role on the influential Republican Steering Committee and his chairmanship of a small business subcommittee. Huelskamp said most of his time is spent working to make the federal government more responsive to citizens, who deserve freedom of choice and less regulation on their medical care and agricultural work. He’s also hopeful of a reappointment to the agricultural committee after November when some committee members leave.
He said he’s received most of his positive feedback for leading the way on reform for the Veterans Administration, Town Hall participants appreciated his fight to force the VA to allow veterans to receive care at their local hospital. One citizen encouraged him to bring accountability to the VA, which has delayed care for Veterans.
Huelskamp wants to continue to protect whistleblowers, who have shone a light on VA management practices.
“We’ve made progress, but still have a ways to go. Right now, Veterans can now go to a local hospital to get their care rather than drive hundreds of miles.
That’s good for local hospitals,” he said. “After it was said everything was fine and dandy, we got calls about a secret wait list (for care). We need to protect these brave whistleblowers. People are afraid of losing their job.”
In one case of mismanagement in Phoenix, Ariz., two VA employees were granted more than 600 days of vacation time and transferred to other positions rather than face true discipline for their mismanagement. Huelskamp said several Veterans died when proper healthcare would’ve extended their lives.
Huelskamp said VA managers are responsible for most of the critical issues.
“Most VA employees do a great job,” he said.
He’s helped introduce the Choice Program, which offers more local healthcare choices for Veterans. His congressional office has assisted more than 950 Veterans during his tenure. Pawnee Valley Community Hospital Administrator John Hughes said he appreciated Huelskamp’s help with directing veterans to Pawnee Valley for their primary care.
“There are plenty of people in the VA who would like to kill that program. In the Choice program, we’ve had more than 100,000 appointments for Veterans,” Huelskamp said. “Whether it’s a 30-day wait, or a 40-mile trip, I’d like to extend it. You should be able to go somewhere else. I’ve had Veterans drive to Denver, Omaha and Topeka for primary care. We don’t have a VA hospital close by for primary care. Let them go to the local critical access care hospital. There are 70 community hospitals in the First District. We want more patients being treated closer to home. This is a heck of a start.”
Huelskamp said most fellow Congressmen, especially from the East Coast, do not understand the rigors of travel in western Kansas.
“It took 50 to 60 years to get the VA in this shape. It will take a number of years get the VA situation headed in the other direction,” he said. “It’s going to take a while. We’re making progress.”
Huelskamp wants Congress to repeal Obamacare.
Immigration and national security were also discussed. Attendees shared with Huelskamp their concern about radical Islamic terrorism, Syrian refugees, a nuclear Iran, and the need to enforce current immigration laws instead of allowing for “sanctuary cities.”
More than 60 area residents raised concerns about government overreach and a President that believes he is above the law.
Congressman Huelskamp has held more Town Halls than any sitting member of Congress. Each year he visits 63 counties in the Big First District to meet with Kansans. The Town Hall in Larned was his 334th since taking office.
“As I start the new year of Town Halls, I’m grateful to see that constituents are eager for Congress to stand with me in standing up for the Constitution. They want Washington to rein in out-of-control spending, to respect religious liberties and Life, and to defend the Second Amendment. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House to serve Kansans and our way of life.”