During the current economic crisis and with the health care industry in turmoil, the Veterans Administration is offering veterans an alternative to meet all their health care needs.
A new VA Medical Center Clinic opened its doors Sept. 1 and doctors, nurses and administrators are now meeting the health care needs of more than 3,300 veterans at the facility, located at the corner of state Route 32 and Beechwood Road, across from Roy Rogers Restaurant in the Eastgate area.
The 15,600 square foot facility not only offers veterans primary care physicians, but also has specialty doctors for podiatry, optometry, mental health and soon will offer an audiologist for hearing disabilities.
"We can assist and direct veterans in areas such as VA health care, VA claims, pensions and emergency financial assistance," said Dan Bare, director of CCVSC.
"Since 2003, we have been bringing health care closer to home with our neighborhood clinics," said Todd Sledge, public affairs officer for VA Medical Center. "In May 2009, our mobile health units began visiting fairs and public events to get veterans enrolled and share information about our services. There are a lot of misnomers about the VA and we want to let veterans what we have to offer."
According to Sledge, the VA can possibly reduce the medical costs of veterans by hundreds of dollars each month. Those who would normally go to their family physician to get prescriptions filled can visit the VA clinic, see a primary physician and get their prescriptions filled for little or no cost.
"Veterans can visit our office to see any number of specialists," said Scott Wuest, nursing manager. "Instead of paying a co-pay for each specialist, such as foot doctor, eye doctor or primary care doctor, they only pay one co-pay amount and can visit all the specialists they need. We take care of lab work here and have a home-based program to help those who are home bound."
The VA Clinic can meet all the health care needs of veterans, including prescription medication which can be sent directly to the patients' homes. If off-site testing is needed for X-rays or other procedures, the medical clinic will send veterans to either the Cincinnati Medical Center location or Clermont Mercy Hospital
"We are making an appeal for many of the younger veterans," said Sledge. "You might not need us now, but signing up with the Veterans Administration is like a family life insurance policy. When you do need us, we will have all your information on file."
Veterans who have not visited the VA Medical Center within the last few years may be surprised by the advances in patient care. There are no rotating doctors at the clinic and the employee turnaround is very low.
"The VA has changed so much over the past 10 years," said Sledge. "This is not your grandfather's VA."
"The VA system has grown by leaps and bounds," said Wuest. "Our staff members are committed to taking care of our patients. Veterans can check in to see a primary care physician and within 15 to 20 minutes they are in an examining room."
"Since we are servicing a smaller area, our staff members know many of the patients by their first names and can offer them better customer service," said Kim Schocky. "We can have more personal contact with the veterans."
Wuest noted that patients do not have to live in Clermont County to take advantage of the facility.
"We have many patients who live in Anderson Township," said Wuest. "If you work nearby and this facility would be convenient for you, we want you to stop here for your medical services."
The VA facility works in partnership with the Veterans' Service Commission which also provides transportation for veterans who may need that service.
"Our new location is more visible and convenient," said Sledge. "We are right on state Route 32 and all our offices are on one floor."
Families of veterans are urged to visit the facility for information about getting their loved ones enrolled in the system.
"No appointments are needed and family members are welcome to come to appointments with the veteran," said Sledge.
It was also noted that the doctors at the clinic are now, more than ever before, dedicated to women's health issues.
"There is a big push for health care for women veterans," said Wuest. "Women can not visit our out-patient clinics for their annual visits."
Those veterans who are currently seeing a physician and don't want to change doctors, can visit the clinic, see a physician who may be able to prescribe the medication his primary care physician wants him to take for a minimal cost.
"Although we can't fill prescriptions here from other doctors, if one of our doctors agrees with the patient's physician on a prescribed medication, they may be able to get the medication through the VA at a reduced rate," said Wuest. "They only have to visit our physician once a year to verify the diagnosis and keep their records up to date."
"Basically, we can't help veterans if we don't know they need help," said Sledge. "No appointments are needed to get a veteran enrolled in our system. If they feel more comfortable going through the county offices we understand that also. In most cases, all we need to verify their eligibility is their DD214. We want to serve our veterans and save them money on their medical bills."
The mobile unit will be at the Brown County Fair during the last week in September to help veterans get registered into the VA system and receive the benefits they have earned.
An open house is slated for the new facility the second week in October. To find out more about the VA and the services they offer, visit their web site at www.cincinnati.va.gov/maps/clermontinfo or call the center at (513) 943-3680.