The meeting hall of Hemet American Legion Post 53 was filled with veterans and their families, city officials and representatives from various community advocacy agencies Tuesday, Feb. 18. This assemblage was coordinated by the Hemet Global Medical Center, members of Post 53 and Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz to inform those in attendance of the Veterans Affairs’s new Mission Community Care Act and how it applies to veterans in the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley and surrounding areas.
Another topic discussed was the role the medical center would play once the red tape cleared. Prabir Chowdhury, chief business development officer, and Keith Garrison, vice president of facilities management and hospital operations, were in attendance and answered questions relevant to the veterans’ concerns. Garrison helped advance the initiative in creating a VA-authorized medical facility in the Hemet-San Jacinto region.
Representatives from the Loma Linda Health Care System answered questions relating to eligibility, the difference between urgent care and primary care providers and how veterans can be “grandfathered” into the system. Testimonies were given on behalf of the VA health care system, while others vented their frustration at past discrepancies suffered in their attempt to seek medical assistance.
Hemet American Legion Post 53 Commander Joe Males, veterans advocate Ronnie “Ranger Ronnie” Imel and Patrick Keplinger, a veteran caseworker and field representative for Ruiz of the 36th Congressional District coordinated the information meeting. Ruiz has led the charge to facilitate a working relationship between the Veterans Administrations Healthcare System and the Hemet Global Medical Center.
The Cloverlane Foundation, which has worked to install a VA-sanctioned health care facility in the region, was represented by Sandy Dee, director of planning for the Cloverlane Foundation.
Koka Lakshman, president for Habitat for Humanity of Hemet/San Jacinto Inc. and Lt. James Fleming of the Salvation Army also participated. Mayor Russ Brown, who is a member of American Legion Post 53, attended.
Those in attendance acknowledged the work already completed and the work needed to bring it about through coordinated efforts. Fleming and Garrison voiced their opinions that monthly meetings should be held, and an ad hoc group be formed to keep the ball rolling.