There may be no worse example of the east-west divide in Massachusetts when it comes to government services than the health care system for veterans.
The Veterans Affairs Central and Western Massachusetts Healthcare System ranks last in New England in average waiting time for doctor's appointments — an inexcusable 12 days (Eagle, Nov. 13). In contrast, veterans in Boston wait an average of only 3 1/2 days. These kinds of east-west discrepancies are not unique but this one is particularly dramatic, and treatment of veterans who are equally qualified for assistance should not be determined by where they live.
It is encouraging that Secretary of Veterans' Services Franciso Urena, who attended a Veterans Expo at the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield last Thursday, is aware of and unhappy with the situation and reached out to local veterans by speaking to them. There are 120,000 veterans in Berkshire and four other counties impacted by this lackluster assistance.
Too many Berkshire County veterans may be unaware that there is a veterans service officer in every community, largely because some VSOs are better than others at reaching out publicly to veterans. The VA and the VSOs must step up their game in getting veterans to sign up for health care and in assuring that they start receiving it in a timely fashion. Like their Eastern Massachusetts counterparts, they have earned it.