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Sanders Discusses VA Medical Opportunities

WAMC/Pat Bradley

Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, extolled the innovative programs of the White River Junction VA Medical Center during a press conference in Burlington on Monday.

Sanders began his comments noting that the country can never fully repay veterans who have served the country. He said that most people realize more than 5,000 men and women have died in service in Iraq and Afghanistan, but don’t realize that tens of thousands have returned from the war zone with traumatic injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.

The meeting in the Senator’s Burlington office painted a rosier picture of the VA than many recent reports as Sanders outlined what he characterized as significant progress in dealing with problems facing veterans and the VA.

Senator Sanders noted that the VA currently is the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., treating 6 million vets yearly at 152 medical centers and more than 900 community-based outreach clinics.

Officials from the VA appeared with Sanders, and one of the concerns is that some vets may not be aware of  services.  White River Junction VA Medical Center Director Deborah Amdur wants to raise awareness about new and innovative services that are available.

The VA is increasingly moving toward holistic care and meeting the needs of the new generation of veterans. Amdur noted that includes integrating mental health services into primary care clinics.

White River Junction VA Medical Center Acting Chief of Primary Care Dr Hugh Huizenga says clinicians recognize that many of the challenges veterans face require the help of a variety of professionals.

Senator Sanders is intrigued that the Veterans Administration is using some of the most progressive holistic methods available as part of comprehensive health care to focus on the patient.

The Veterans’ Administration was excluded from sequestration, and medical facilities have not been affected. The White River Junction facility serves about 25 thousand vets from Vermont and the four contiguous counties in New Hampshire. Some 75 thousand veterans live in the region, and Amdur says the VA is increasing outreach to encourage them to seek care at its facilities.

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