Congresswoman Cheri Bustos is coming to Pekin to answer questions from a panel of Tazewell County veterans who want to know what she can do to improve their health care, among other things.

Bustos will answer questions from 1 to 2 p.m. on Oct. 18 in the third-floor jury room at the McKenzie Building, 11 S. Fourth St., Pekin. Veterans are invited to attend, but the members of the panel will ask the questions, said Steven Saal, superintendent of the Tazewell County Veterans Assistance Commission Office.

Saal said Bustos has been an advocate for veterans. This is her second visit for a Q-and-A session with a veterans panel. The visit is at her request. The last visit was three years ago. Saal said there will be 10 to 12 veterans from various parts of the county and members of the Veterans Assistance Board on the panel.

“We’ll talk to the congresswoman about what problems are on their minds — the VA Clinic, how it’s going; how the different programs are going, are they well received; problems with the claims — sometimes the claims that they put in take an extremely long time,” said Saal. “I know President (Donald) Trump has signed some kind of executive order to speed up the system, but I know it’s always going to be a question asked of the congresswoman. And I just think it’s on the veterans minds.

“I think the veterans of Tazewell County and the veterans around the region, of course strictly in her 17 or 18 different counties she represents, everybody is concerned, and they want to make sure the veterans get the best service there is. After all, every veteran here in Tazewell County and in her district did give their time when they were called for duty.”

The Tazewell County Veterans Commission provides rides to veterans who need to go to the VA clinics in Danville, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Iowa City, Iowa.

“I think one of the biggest questions they will ask her is why can’t we go to the regular doctors here,” said Saal. “Veterans in the area are still going to Danville or Iowa City or Indianapolis for a 15 or 20 minute office visit.

“There are programs out there. It’s getting better, I would say, but it’s still on the veterans minds. Just having the health visits and the doctor visits — keep it closer to the community instead of a two-hour drive where the major hospitals are.”

The Bob Michel VA Outpatient Clinic in Peoria is there for veterans. Saal said Bustos and Rep. Darin LaHood, D-Peoria, 18th District, both take a serious interest in the clinic.

The Bob Michel clinic cannot perform all of the services needed by veterans. Some testing has to be done at the bigger clinics hours away.

“Sometimes health-wise they can’t make the trip,” said Saal. “But some have back problems and any other kinds of problems.

“We do have a van that does take them from the (Peoria) clinic to a VA hospital, but sometimes it is too long a ride and too rough a ride for the veterans, especially for the older ones.”

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