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Clinic Offers Local Care to Vets

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A local resource opens for area vets

Two big things have happened this past month. One directly affects local veterans and the other is of national importance. But before I get into those new items I want to continue with something I started last month.

Last month I introduced you to MSgt David L. Brunstad and his partner Darin. David and Darin currently live in north central Idaho not too far east of Moscow. When they first purchased their home they anticipated some degree of animosity from the residents of this area. It was the summer of 2008 and Darin was a staunch supporter of then candidate Obama. He purchased and erected a large ‘Obama ’08’ on their property near a major road to tell everyone where he stood. 

One day they discovered that the sign had been ‘modified’ to read “Osama” with paint. Darin corrected that with more paint. Shortly thereafter the sign was taken and was nowhere to be found. The sign was eventually located—torn in half—near an abandoned house trailer. Darin stitched the sign back together with zip ties—he called it ‘Franken-sign’—and put it back in place.

A while later they received a call from a neighbor telling them that there had been a grass fire. When they returned home they found their sign burned along with much of the field. It seems that someone had doused the sign with gasoline and extended a trail of gas to the road where it was ignited. The burning of the sign was bad enough but when you consider the fact that it was now late summer, the grass was tall and dry and their neighbors had horses in the adjacent fields it could have been a disaster. 

The young culprit was eventually located and, after apologizing, was allowed to pay restitution and let off with a warning. It seems that the reason he wanted to destroy the sign was not that he was anti-gay but rather that he had been convinced by certain very shrill voices on the extreme right that the President—if elected—would take away his guns. That young man joined the military, was deployed to Afghanistan and has started a family. 

With the over-turning of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ David and Darin have become very active in closing the next gap in obtaining full civil rights for the LBGT community. That gap is ‘The Defense of Marriage Act’, or DoMa. DoMa must be overturned so that full recognition and benefits can be granted to the spouses of our gay service members, so these spouses can have access to all the services that their ‘straight’ comrades take for granted. I wish them both success in all they do.

On Saturday, July 21, I attended the Grand re-opening of the Kaniksu Health Services Clinic in their new digs at 30410 Hwy 200E in Ponderay. What made this event important to area veterans is the enhanced and expanded VA presence at this facility. Staff has been increased as have been access to services. It may now not be necessary for local veterans to make the long ride to Spokane for many routine lab and follow-up visits. 

The flyer that I received announcing this event reads, in part, “Veterans in Bonner and Boundary Counties seeking medical services through the VA-contracted health care clinic in the Sandpoint area will find the expanded facility much larger and newer. Outpatient Primary Care services along with Health Promotion, Disease Prevention and Education services also offered to Veterans. The modern facility will also allow on-site access to VA’s Tele-Health providers at Spokane VA Medical Center, including specialized Telederm services.”

I had the pleasure of speaking briefly with one of the Spokane VA Medical Center representatives who was on-site for the opening. Her name is Jennifer Allison-Oord and her job title is Transitional Patient Advocate. The translation for this tongue twister is to help—in whatever way necessary—injured warriors leave the military and re-enter into civilian life. 

I hope to be able to get more information about this satellite clinic during a phone interview I’m scheduled to have in the near future with the Spokane VA Medical Center’s Public Affairs Officer. 

One of the things I found surprising is that the VA is helping female service members receive both pre- and post-natal care when they leave the armed forces pregnant. Short aside: I wasn’t aware that female service members have the option of completing their service contract or accepting a medical discharge. For whatever reason many of these women take the discharge and return home not knowing they are eligible for medical coverage by the VA. The sub-title on the brochure on ‘Women Veterans Health Care’ reads, “You served, you deserve the best care anywhere.”

One of the main areas of emphasis at the Spokane VA Medical Center and here at the clinic is promoting healthy living through diet, exercise and the free exchange of information. They offer smoking cessation classes and all the prescription medications to facilitate quitting that health-destroying habit. They also promote screening tests and immunizations to help all veterans of both genders live long and healthy lives. Their telephone number for information and to schedule an appointment is (208) 263-0450. I’m glad to see this partnership between the VA and Kaniksu Health Services being expanded.

As a last note, I’d like to mention a curious situation that has come to my attention. For decades we have been told that the GOP is the military’s best friend. If that is true, why is the GOP trying to thwart the Navy’s attempts to ‘Go Green’? During a recent major fleet exercise north of the Hawaiian Islands, most of the ships and aircraft were using a 50-50 mixture of standard fuels and bio-fuels (the only ones not using these fuels were nuclear powered). These blends required no engine modifications and the engines operated normally—jets and helicopters included. The Navy has decided that fighting over foreign oil is not in the best interest of their ships, aircraft or personnel. Therefore they concluded that utilizing other fuel sources was prudent and cost effective over the long run.

Cut now to the recent passage of the Defense budget, where over $70 million for bio-fuels development by the Navy was CUT from the bill. What was the rationale given? It wasn’t cost effective given the current price of a barrel of oil! This reasoning is specious on its face. If we are ever to wean ourselves from dependence on foreign oil we MUST develop alternative fuels. Be it recycled McDonald’s French fries oil or fermented cactus squeezings, it must be done regardless of its impact on Exxon-Mobil’s bottom line.

One last bit of info coming out of the passage of that Defense funding authorization bill. The GOP insisted that billions be allocated for ships and aircraft that the military doesn’t even want or need. These monies will ensure that numerous defense industry contractors will have many years of profitable earnings. And, these people contribute hugely to GOP candidates. I have long believed that the GOP is not the military’s friend but rather they are the BFF’s of the defense industry and Big Oil.

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

Tagged as:

Veterans News, Dont Ask Dont Tell, David L Brunstad, Defense of Marriage Act, Kaniksu Health Services

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