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Monday, Mar 18 2013 11:00 PM

HARVEY HALL: They served us, so why can't we better serve our veterans?

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    Harvey Hall

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We, as Americans, are forever beholden to the men and women who have donned our nation's uniform and pledged their lives and sacred honor to serve in our armed forces in order that we may live in peace, and enjoy freedom and liberty, with our God-given rights respected and protected.

Grateful for this liberty, we can do no less than vow our commitment to ensure our homecoming heroes receive the compassionate, competent care, benefits and support they so richly deserve in reciprocity for the sacrifices made to protect our homeland.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, our veteran population now approximates 22.7 million. The U.S. Census Bureau tallies roughly a tenth, or 2 million, of those veterans living in California, with Kern County boasting a population of more than 46,000. Those numbers will swell with the imminent withdrawal of troops abroad and makes way for our newest generation of veterans and their families.

As a provider of health care services for our Kern County veterans, I support the recent expose and public scrutiny of the VA that aims at reconciling the daunting logjam of paperwork and officialdom that denies access to benefits, claims and resources for our local veterans.

Hall Ambulance Service Inc. has been in business for 42 years and has proudly provided emergency and nonemergency ambulance services to our veterans. Our goal is to offer the highest quality pre-hospital emergency care available. Sometimes that care also includes long-distance transports that our veterans must bear as they seek medical treatment in other areas of California.

With the wait time noticeably worsening in the past four years, we too, have battled with the VA to get veterans' medical claims approved and paid. We encounter the VA's ever-increasing culture of complacency and the surge of nonpayment and denial of medical bills that proves disconcerting for our veterans, exacerbates their current health and well-being, and adds undue financial strain on our veterans, their families and survivors.

The heroism displayed by the bravery of our dedicated men and women who have stepped up for our nation should inspire a sense of collective responsibility to mobilize our community to demand our government delivers the benefits our veterans were promised in return for their service to defend and protect our country and our Constitution. We owe our veterans a solemn debt.

Harvey L. Hall is the founder and president of Hall Ambulance Service Inc., which celebrated 42 years of service to Kern County in February . He was elected mayor of Bakersfield in 2000 and is now serving his fourth term.

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