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Greg Remus

Vets Views: An introduction to the intricasies of the country's largest integrated health care system and its benefits

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Did you know the VA operates the nation's largest integrated health care system with more than 1,400 sites of care, including hospitals, community clinics, nursing homes, domiciliaries, readjustment counseling centers and various other facilities.

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Enrollment for most veterans into the VA health care system begins by completing a VA Form 10-10EZ, Application for Health Benefits. Once enrolled, veterans can receive services at VA facilities anywhere in the country.

Enrollment is not guaranteed

It was surprising to find out that not all veterans have access to VA medical facilities. There is a significant group of veterans who are not eligible for veterans health care. If you exceed income limits (geographically adjusted income threshold) and are not service connected for a condition at the 10% level you will not be enrolled into the VA medical system. Of course there are exceptions within this group such as former prisoners of war, Purple Heart recipients, recently discharged combat veterans, etc...

Minneapolis, St Cloud and Fargo VA Health Care Systems

Veterans from Hubbard County generally use the Minneapolis VA Health Care Syste, St Cloud VA Health Care System or the Fargo VA Health Care System.

The Minneapolis System consists of the medical center and nine community based outpatient clinics. Veterans from Hubbard County typical use the medical center for their specialty care resources.

The medical center is a teaching hospital, providing a full range of patient care services, with state of the art technology as well as education and research. Comprehensive health care is provided through primary care, tertiary care and long-term care in areas of medicine, surgery, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, oncology, dentistry and geriatrics. Minneapolis is the only VA Brain Injury Center and is designated as one of four VA Polytrauma Centers across the nation.

The St. Cloud System consists of the medical center and three community-based outpatient clinics. Hubbard County veterans typically access the Medical Center and the Brainerd clinic. This Health Care System provides similar services to the Minneapolis System with special emphasis services including residential and outpatient mental health and substance abuse programs, a post-traumatic stress disorder treatment program, a mental health residential rehabilitation treatment program, outpatient programming for serious mental illness, homeless veterans programs, a suicide prevention program, incarcerated veterans program, a Native American Sweat Lodge emphasis to meet diverse spiritual needs, adult day health care, home-based primary care and ventilator care.

The Fargo System includes the VA Medical Center and nine community outpatient clinics. Hubbard County veterans typically access the VA Medical Center and the Bemidji, and Fergus Falls clinics. This health care system has a unique challenge to serve the second largest geographical area in the United States second only in size to Alaska. Because of the geographical challenge, tele-health has received a greater emphasis.

Comprehensive health care is provided through primary care, tertiary care and long-term care in areas of medicine, surgery, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, oncology, dentistry and geriatrics.

Improvements

In recent years, a greater demand has been placed on these facilities and conversely received additional resources to make improvements. The result is improved care and some new amenities. Minneapolis is expanding rural health care as construction of two new community- based outpatient clinics is underway.

A homeless drop-in center is planned and they are adding a second Fisher House, which could accommodate up to 40 residents. St Cloud expanded and remodeled their urgent care clinic, added an ambulatory surgery center plus designed and created a mobile audiology clinic. Currently under construction in Fargo are five digital operating rooms, an Audiology/Eye/Opthalmology clinic, and an outpatient treatment space to house exam rooms based on patient aligned care teams.

If you haven't visited a VA health Care facility recently it is eye opening. They are definitely better resourced have become state-of-the-art health care facilities. I believe they have improved service and will continue to address the challenges of providing comprehensive health care to more veterans as these critical services are needed.

As always the purpose of the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office is to provide assistance and support to eligible veterans, their dependents and survivors in obtaining benefits through the State and Federal Departments of Veterans Affairs, and to provide benefit counseling, claims service, referral and assistance in a variety of other programs. You can contact me at the Hubbard County Veteran Service Office at 201 Fair Ave, Park Rapids, 732-3561.

Have a great day! Don't forget every third Thursday of each month. I will be at the Lakeport Town Hall in Laporte from 9 a.m. to noon and the Lake George Town Hall from 1 to 3 p.m.

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