Pictured (L to R) are Russ Bauer Sr., Korean War veteran; Russ Bauer Jr., Russ’ Barn and Grille owner; and Jackie Walorski, District 2 U.S. congresswoman, Tuesday afternoon during a veterans tour in Claypool at Russ’ Barn and Grille. Photo by Jennifer Peryam, Times-Union
Pictured (L to R) are Russ Bauer Sr., Korean War veteran; Russ Bauer Jr., Russ’ Barn and Grille owner; and Jackie Walorski, District 2 U.S. congresswoman, Tuesday afternoon during a veterans tour in Claypool at Russ’ Barn and Grille. Photo by Jennifer Peryam, Times-Union
CLAYPOOL – Second District U.S.  Congresswoman Jackie Walorski made a stop in Claypool Tuesday during her veterans tour.
She met with 20 veterans at Russ’ Barn and Grille, Claypool, hosted by owner Russ Bauer Jr. to discuss their concerns with the Veterans Affairs system. Walorski also discussed legislation passed last week in Congress to reform the veterans affairs system.
During the veterans tour, Bauer Jr. provided attendees with food and beverages.
“We want to reinforce the fact that we believe Jackie is working on veterans’ behalf to make things better. These are my brothers and sisters, and although I don’t deal with the VA system, they do so I want to make sure it gets better for them,” Bauer Jr. said.
Walorski serves on the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Conference Committee.
Last week President Barack Obama signed HR 3230, the Veterans’ Access to Care Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act, that Walorski supported.
“The VA bill the president signed last week is a huge step forward and opens a lot of doors,” Walorski said.
The new law gives veterans greater access to health care if they live in a rural area or have waited over 30 days to see a doctor. In addition, it provides funding for additional doctors, nurses and healthcare workers to be hired for the VA system.
“If a veteran is on a current waiting list to receive care and lives 40 miles outside a hospital, they can access community-based care,” Walorski said.
Walorski said she met with veterans during the tour Monday and Tuesday and has heard concerns from them that there is lack of communication between the VA and veterans.
“A lot of veterans have said to me they have good care when they get into the VA, but getting in is impossible,” Walorski said.
She said she will use what she has learned during the veterans tour and take it back to Congress to see what improvements can be made to the VA system.
Veterans spoke about their experiences with the VA during the tour.
John Pontius, 54, Silver Lake, was one of the veterans who attended Tuesday’s veterans tour. Pontius served in the Marines from 1977 to 1998 as a truck driver for convoys in Somalia.
He said he was injured in a vehicle accident while serving in the Marines. His vehicle was rear ended and it ripped his shoulder and the VA put him into therapy he still receives. He said he also blew his knee out from running in combat boots and his knee was operated on.
“It took me three years to get into the VA to get my shoulder fixed because I was on a waiting list,” Pontius said.
Bauer Sr., 80, Cicero, who hosted the veterans tour, attended the veterans tour and said he has gone to the VA in Indianapolis for 30 years. Bauer Sr. is a Korean War veteran who served in the Army from 1954 to 1956.
“When I first went to the VA it was disheartening that it took from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. just to see a doctor. I now can go in at 7 a.m. and get out by 9:30 a.m.,” Bauer Sr. said.
He said when he was at the VA clinic he met a soldier who had come home from Iraq and had gotten his leg injured and needed a prosthetic leg. The VA would not pay for the prosthetic because they said he made too much money for the VA to cover the prosthetic.
Bauer Sr. said veterans and active duty service men and women should not be denied access to care based on their incomes.