Gov concerned over drop in vets visits to VA clinic
Gov. Togiola Tulafono says an official informed him last week with the Veterans Administration regarding the drop in the number of local veterans utilizing the local VA clinic in Tafuna.
Speaking on his weekend radio program, the governor said this issue came up during a meeting last week with Dr. James Hasting, director of Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System.
He said the VA director raised the concern over the decline in the number of veterans in the territory who are utilizing the local clinic. There are some 4,000 veterans registered in American Samoa, while only about 800 are using the clinic, he noted.
While it was not clearly stated by the VA official during the meeting, Togiola said it’s his impression that if there are not enough veterans using the local clinic, there is the possibility clinic services may be scaled back or discontinued.
Togiola says that the only time the Governor’s Office is contacted by the federal agencies providing such services to the territory are when there are problems, or if some services are in jeopardy.
He said it’s difficult for ASG to argue its case with the Veterans Administration if there are only 800 out of the 4,000 using the local VA clinic. He said this is a wake-up call for local veterans to consider fully utilizing this clinic.
Research into why veterans do not use the clinic reveals that some veterans do not want to pay the “co-payer” cost for those who are not fully insured, said Togiola, adding that the cost for co-payer is $50 upwards to see the physician.
This is compared to the $10 facility fee to see a physician at LBJ Medical Center and $10 to get medication, said Togiola, who said he doesn’t fault the veterans for trying to save money. However, the governor points out that this VA service was pushed years ago to assist our veterans.
He said he would hate to see this service scaled back or discontinued after all these years of fighting to get this VA operation set up in the territory.
He said the co-pay is required to pay 40%, 50% or 60% of the cost, depending on each individual’s insurance situation.
He said the VA issue is the same situation with those local residents who are recipients of the Medicare program, where the federal insurance program pays 80% and the patient pays the balance.
He said Medicare recipients sometimes do not use their Medicare because there are times when the balance to be paid by the patient is higher than the $10 LBJ facility fee, which is less expensive.