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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Ralph Bozella, chairman of the National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, addresses about 50 veterans at American Legion Post 148 on Tuesday.

To veterans’ health

Area veterans interested in maintaining local inpatient care have an effective advocate in the American Legion. The largest veterans’ service group is making a difference in holding the Veterans Affairs Northern Indiana Health Care System responsible for its performance.

In turn, officials at the VA Medical Center are demonstrating encouraging efforts to restore and improve services at the Fort Wayne clinic.

A town-hall meeting organized by the American Legion’s System Worth Having Task Force on Tuesday was a follow-up to a December meeting that resulted in strong recommendations. The task force called for Veterans Affairs to fill staff vacancies at the medical center, to expand training and to improve both internal and external communications. Poor performance in the latter area resulted in the Fort Wayne center suspending inpatient care last fall without notice.

American Legion officials praised Veterans Affairs for acknowledging the need to improve.

“The facility wholeheartedly supported all of our recommendations,” said Jacob Gadd, an official with the Legion’s National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission.

Tuesday, a representative for the medical center was in attendance to hear comments from veterans and noted the earlier communications missteps.

Sheryl Grubb, public affairs officer for the regional system, said the “pause” in inpatient service had been difficult.

“We did not communicate as well as we should,” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

The acknowledgment signals a refreshing change in VA efforts to serve the region. Admitting the medical center had “a very bad reputation” is a groundbreaking development for an agency that for too long operated with little transparency.

Veterans can help by sharing thoughts on improving the system now that inpatient care has been restored at the Lake Avenue complex. The American Legion task force can best help veterans if it hears comments not about specific medical cases, but how the process works for all.

Ensuring the best medical health care delivery system for the region’s veterans should be the goal.