Veterans Continue Push for Better Health Care Access

For veterans like Rick Hummel, the war may be over, but the scars remain.

Hummel served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1970. A year ago, doctors diagnosed Hummel with a type of bone marrow cancer called Myloprolific Neoplasm.

He receives treatment from both the VA center in Fargo and the Mayo Clinic, but finds himself in the midst of a lengthy appeal process with the VA.

"I filed a claim and my claim was denied," Hummel said. "I was told that it was going to be a year to two years, maybe even three years before my appeal would be heard by the VA."

Hummel says he has medical records showing Agent Orange exposure as a likely cause of his cancer, but he says it does not fall under the VA's presumptive list.

"The things that are on the presumptive list, this falls right in with it," Hummel said. "It's a cancer."

Hummel's struggle is one of many that veterans face. With North Dakota's only VA center in Fargo, veterans like Hummel from Bottineau and other communities have to travel hundreds of miles for car, but in some in Washington say they want to change that.

"Our VA Center in Fargo delivers good service," said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. "The problem is distance. From Williston you're talking 800 mile round trip. From here in Bottineau, it's a long trip."

Hoeven says Congress pushed the Veterans Care Act through, the challenge implementing it.

"That legislation's been passed, but we don't see the VA delivering that service yet," Hoeven said.

Hummel says he continues to receive good care from the Fargo VA. His main goal is to help all veterans with his condition by getting his illness on the list. For Hoeven, it means cutting down on the runaround.

"They need to be able to call the Fargo VA and get help right away," Hoeven said. "And that doesn't mean traveling to Fargo, that means with a local health care provider."

Helping those who have given so much for our country.

We reached out to the VA Center in Fargo and are waiting for a response.

The Am-Vet post in Bottineau will host a seminar at their center in Bismarck on June 18 for suicide prevention for veterans in North Dakota.