Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ROA comments on rural veteran health care

CAPT Marshall Hanson
Legislative Director

ROA was invited back to participate in the House Veterans Affair roundtable on the challenges to rural veteran health care. ROA Legislative Director Marshall Hanson talked about the unique challenges of the National Guard and Reserve veteran, and how ROA has been addressing the problems facing rural health care since the Reserve Component was mobilized in 2002.

“The United States is creating a new generation of combat veterans that come from its Reserve Components (RC), many of whom are typically geographically dispersed and in rural areas,” CAPT Hanson told the committee. “Members of the National Guard and Reserves uniquely serve, as as they are veterans who continue to serve even after they are separated from Active Duty. Many of the rural veterans are also National Guardsmen and Reservists who do not have the benefit of being located near or associated with a military base, and are also not near VA facilities or doctors. These veterans often cannot find a way to travel to see a doctor or other health care providers.”

ROA suggested that all options of partnership should be explored, to shorten the distance between patient and health professional Other federal agencies should be considered. Examples of this could be the Department of Homeland Security with Coast Guard bases, or the US Public Health through Indian Health Services.

The biggest challenge that is faced by either TRICARE contractors or Veterans Health Administration is just identifying the wounded warriors. Not only is the problem who they are, but where they are located. While DEERS has improved in identifying these individuals, often these young men and women don’t even know what benefits they are entitled to, so that when they return home, they blend into the landscape. Additional details can be found in ROA’s written testimony here.

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