The Hubbard County Veteran Services Office (VSO) is only the second in Minnesota to offer telehealth appointments to local veterans.

Assistant Veteran Services Officer Darius Simon told the county board on Tuesday, “With the recent COVID-19, our hours have been a little crazy at the office. We’ve been working from home, but it’s also affected our veterans in general.”

Telehealth allows veterans to have medical appointments at the VSO, Simon explained. “So they can do telehealth medicine to, say, a therapist in Colorado or their pharmacist in Fargo.”

Through the Fargo VA Medical Center, Simon acquired an iPad with cellular and video capabilities.

“That was free of charge,” noted County VSO Jerry Bjerke.

Simon said veterans may do group or one-on-one counseling through telehealth, along with refilling prescriptions or talk to a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder coach.

“There’s a lot of benefits that follow behind this, and we’re just excited to be able to bring it to the office and the county,” Simon said.

“Just one more tool that we can use to help our veterans locally,” Bjerke added.

Board chair Char Christenson asked if veterans are comfortable with the technology.

Simon said there is one veteran, in his late 80s, who is not as mobile as he used to be. “He is a little cautious about COVID-19 and getting out and going to the VA, so I feel with that one veteran right there, this will benefit him dramatically.”

Bjerke said the VA is reporting an 80 to 90 percent satisfactory rate with telehealth medicine.

“You have the option of coming to our office, which is maybe 10 minutes away, or a two-hour drive there and back,” he said. “Especially in the winter time, it gets a little stressful, so we see this as a positive. … It’s a big deal. We’re pretty happy.”

In related business, the VSO accepted a $500 donation from Coldwell Banker - Clack & Dennis Real Estate. Bjerke said the funds would go toward veteran outreach and transportation.