For Rural Veterans, New Strategies for Access to Health Care

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Veterans Affairs Building, Miles City, Montana (flickr: dave_mcmt)

Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan come from hill towns and farm country all across America – and when they return home, they bring their combat injuries with them. Traumatic brain injuries and missing limbs require sophisticated and constant treatment, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has a duty to treat them. But when roads are blocked by snow, or the nearest VA facility is hours away, giving veterans the care they’ve been promised can be a challenge.

On Monday, a House Subcommittee met to discuss rural veterans' health. To improve care at a distance, one of the strategies being considered is 'telemedicine,' which connects doctors to the veterans they serve via video conferences, phone calls, and the internet.

Ron Sandreth has been thinking about these issues for a while. He’s the operations manager at the Lewis A. Johnson VA Healthcare System in Clarksburg, and it's his job to send health care out into the mountains and valleys of West Virginia. Tim Bagwell is a wounded veteran who lives in Adair, Oklahoma. He receives specialized care for a traumatic brain injury, in person and sometimes over the phone.


Tim Bagwell and Ron Sandreth

Produced by:

Posey Gruener

Comments [3]


The recent veterans are not the only veterans are not the only vets that have problems with rural health care.Did everyone forget.THANKS

Jul. 21 2010 03:19 PM
Sara Friedman from Florida

I have for some time been advised of this problem. My suggestion is that these vets in rural areas of the country should be able to use their VA benefits at local doctors and hospitals. I feel this would be cost effective way to address this problem.

Jul. 20 2010 04:09 PM
Joseph Awad, MD from Nashville, TN

All health care in the US is Urban-based, not just the VA. The best hospitals and specialized healthcare for obvious reasons are based around cities.

The VA grew originally from a hospital-based (no clinic) system in its early years. It has grown closer to its patients over the years but this is difficult for any system of healthcare. In contrast, most rural non-veterans do not have the benefit of VA outreach with quality health care. The VA is pushing the technology and human resources closer to the veteran.

Jul. 20 2010 09:04 AM

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