Erlinda Valdez: Don’t shortchange veterans on health care help | Column

With America’s ever-growing health care woes, having dedicated and hardworking men and women available to help veterans receive the care they need and deserve is critical.

Unfortunately, the demand for veterans health care continues to outpace the Department of Veterans Affairs’ ability to provide quality care in-house. To meet this challenge, health care companies like WPS Insurance here in Wisconsin are relied upon to help veterans and active military members. Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment, surgery, or other services, the dedicated employees of WPS personally assist veterans with their insurance claims to ensure they can focus on getting better instead of on often stressful and complex medical bills.

WPS is a critical part of a large health network of hospitals, clinics, vet centers, nursing homes, and comprehensive home care programs that serve veterans. As we all know, health insurance questions can be difficult and frustrating. The professionals who work at WPS are a key part of keeping the claims process for veterans smooth and orderly.

There are more than 400,000 veterans who call Wisconsin home, and about half of them are over age 65. The most recent Census also shows us that over 40,000 businesses in the state are veteran-owned. Simply put, veterans are an important part of our community, and we are grateful for their service and commitment to making Wisconsin and our nation stronger.

There are nearly 700 hardworking women and men who work at WPS in Madison. It’s a solid, good-paying job that allows us to take care of our families almost as well as we take care of the thousands of Wisconsin veterans we serve. Each and every day, we provide top-level service, which can take upward of 20 minutes per call, depending upon the insurance claim. We aren’t just proud of the work we do, we’re also proud to be a local business that makes life better for veterans and other local families.

Compared to the large corporations that typically provide veteran support services to the government, we’re a small company. Our competitive advantage has always come from a simple yet powerful idea: We put our veterans first, and we take whatever time is needed to get them the answers and support they expect and have earned.

Unfortunately, a new initiative at WPS relies on a different, numbers-driven set of priorities that puts the needs of veterans on the backburner. This new performance initiative expects us to adequately service veterans and their health insurance questions in less time. It is simply not enough time to be adequately assisted.

That’s why we, the hardworking women and men at WPS, are sounding alarms about this new plan to put quick care that is prone to errors above quality service. Asking us to rush through these calls and claims, especially when a mistake could mean financial peril for any of the veterans we serve, is simply a bad idea.

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Last year, we served over 140,000 veterans and active military members through various services at WPS, including claims processing.

We understand the importance of making changes to better serve people, but our ability to give veterans the quality care we’ve always given them shouldn’t be compromised. For the sake and strength of our community, we urge WPS to stop insisting on a rushed approach to serving our veterans.

Erlinda Valdez is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 1473 member. She worked at WPS-Madison for 16 years before retiring.

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