VA and VFW partner to bring healthcare to rural areas

Photo credit Veterans of Foreign Wars

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6786 in Eureka, Montana is the site of a first-of-its-kind telehealth initiative, known as ATLAS (Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations), which allows veterans to virtually connect with their VA providers without having to travel to VA medical facilities or outpatient clinics.

“I am very proud and honored to have our VFW post as an ATLAS site,” said VFW Post 6786 Commander Rick Weldon in the release “Our veterans currently expend a great deal of time and effort to reach the nearest VA clinic. ATLAS provides a solution to this issue that benefits both veterans and VA staff.”

ATLAS is the result of a partnership between the VFW, American Legion, Department of Veterans Affairs, and health-care provider Philips.

The passage of the Mission Act in May 2018 allows VA doctors, nurses and other health care providers to administer care using telehealth technologies, regardless of the location of the veteran’s provider.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in the release that the goal of the program is to ensure that all veterans have access to health care.

“ATLAS eliminates another health care hurdle for veterans living in rural areas or with limited Internet access, and it’s a great example of how public and private organizations can work together to solve the challenges of health care,” he said.

According to the VFW, nearly 25 percent of the nation’s nearly 20 million veterans live in remote or rural areas which provides challenges to delivering health care such as long travel times to facilities or limited Internet connection. Many rural veterans may also live with multiple chronic, service-related disabilities or mobility limitations which further hinder their ability to easily access health care.

“Sitting inside state-of-the-art, private, Internet-connected health care pods developed and donated by Philips, veterans will benefit from virtual appointments in familiar surroundings conducted by VA medical professionals,” said VFW National Commander William J. “Doc” Schmitz. “This removes geographic and digital barriers and is the latest way today’s VFW posts are innovating to address the needs of our Veterans and their families.”

The program will also be offered in Linesville, Pennsylvania at VFW Post 7842 and in Los Banos, California at VFW Post 2487/American Legion Post 166. The first American Legion site will be in Springfield, Virginia at Post 176.

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