Retired US Air Force General Dale Stovall joined KGVO News to speak about his time serving the country, as well as his advocacy for veteran’s healthcare. Stovall, who now lives in Missoula, is an avid supporter of expanded VA medical care and has worked alongside Montana’s Congressmen to improve access in the state.

Stovall told KGVO about his first years serving in Vietnam. At the beginning of his service, Stovall was part of the Combat Rescue Team, performing 12 successful rescues. In fact, Stovall was awarded an Air Force Cross for performing the deepest rescue in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Stovall recounts about his time as a pilot: “I started out as an air-lifter flying transports, and then during Vietnam, they needed helicopter pilots. I became a Jolly Green, which was the call sign for the helicopters in Rescue. I had a tour flying out of Thailand into Laos and North Vietnam, and I picked up 12 guys that got shot down behind the lines during the year that I was there.”

Stovall retired in 1993. Now, he advocates for veteran’s healthcare in an effort to resolve some of the many issues within the VA. After serving alongside Ryan Zinke in a joint special ops mission, Stovall chaired Zinke’s Veterans Advisory Board during his time as US Representative. In the wake of the 2014 VA scandal, the advisory board performed a week-long poll to evaluate the problems faced by veterans in Montana.

“We polled veterans to find out what bothered them,” Stovall says. “The problems, one through ten, were medical. It was overwhelming the problem with access to VA health care. We had the Choice Act, where if you lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility, you could go in to see a private doctor. That was a complete bust, and so nobody was getting the medical care that they needed.”

Stovall says that the failures of the Choice Act partly stemmed from the fact that the private contractor, located out of state, was understaffed and inexperienced.

According to Stovall, Zinke even called on the House Chair of the VA Committee, who came to Missoula to discuss problems with veteran’s medical care. Stovall says that Zinke asked for materials from the VA two years prior to the meeting. The materials did not arrive.

The Choice Act has now been replaced by the Mission Act of 2019, which Stovall finds more effective. Though there are still myriad problems with VA healthcare, Stovall says that “the VA staff in Montana is great.” That includes doctors and nurses who serve the veteran population in the state. However, Stovall states that Montana is short about 28 VA doctors. He says that a crucial step for VA medical care would be to incentivize younger physicians to join the VA.

In an effort to improve veteran’s healthcare, Stovall is endorsing Joe Dooling for US Congress. He says that Dooling would do a “wonderful job for veterans”; according to Dooling, who appeared in the KGVO studio alongside Stovall, part of reforming the VA is mobilizing government to address the issues of veteran’s healthcare.

Dooling is running for Montana’s US Representative on the Republican ticket. He can be reached at his website here or at 431-3510.