The Putnam Examiner

Veteran Health Services Addressed in Carmel

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By Neal Rentz

The Veterans Administration Hudson Valley system conducted a town hall listening session on March 14 at the Putnam County Training and Operations in Carmel addressing veteran issues.

During the meeting VA officials spelled out how they wanted to improve services for local veterans and they took comments and questions from veterans.

Dawn Schaal, Medical Center associate director, said the federal VA has “five top priorities” to seek improving care for veterans.

Priority one is greater choices for veterans’ health care, Schaal said.

The second priority is to modernize the VA health care system, Schaal said. Some ways to modernize the system include making improvements to the buildings utilized by the VA and make medical services competitive with the private sector, she said. The VA is also working to allow veterans to have access to private rooms at its facility in Montrose in Westchester County, she said.

The third priority is making the system more transparent, Schaal said. The VA is working to accommodate urgent medical needs of veterans met more quickly, she noted.

The VA’s fourth priority is to improve efficiency, Schaal said. The VA is working to have better coordination with the Department of Defense and county coordinators, she said.

The fifth VA priority is suicide prevention, Schaal said. The goal is to have no veterans take their own lives, she said. All VA employees are part of the suicide prevention efforts, she said.

VA Hudson Valley Chief of Staff Dr. Elisa Valencia-Sanchez discussed provided a clinical services update, which included providing information on Telehealth Services, She said the program includes provisions like videoconferencing between the VA’s medical centers and clinics, having nurses monitor and manage illnesses through telehealth equipment in the home or through mobile devices, the taking, storing and forwarding of patient information, remote access of radiological and sharing of nuclear medicine images.

Veteran Peter Feldman asked how transportation could be made less costly for local veterans who need to travel outside of Putnam County to receive medical care. He has to travel from Carmel to Montrose for care. Family members should receive financial reimbursement for the cost of travel from the VA, Feldman suggested. Schaal said under federal VA policy, individuals are not reimbursed for the cost of travel. Van service is provided to veterans from Putnam County to Montrose, she said.

Another resident, who did not identify himself, questioned why many veterans have to pay a portion of their health care costs, compared to members of Congress who “do nothing: receive free health care, even after they leave Washington.”

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