Physician provides healthcare options for local veterans

by Rhett Sifford
For many years, military veterans in San Juan County haven’t had many options for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare for which they qualify.
The 170-mile distance to the VA Medical Center in Grand Junction, CO was relieved slightly when the Moab VA Telehealth Outreach Clinic opened in 2010. But Telehealth is exactly what it sounds like – talking to a doctor at a remote location using a video interface.
But now, for the first time, a physician is seeing patients in person at the Moab clinic located at South Main. Dr. Renee Dunn, who lives in Monticello, is there each Monday and Thursday, providing many of the services veterans had to drive to Grand Junction for until this past September.
“Almost 80 percent of the veterans who live in San Juan County are not registered to receive medical care through the VA,” Dunn said. “Due to the distance to the Grand Junction VA hospital, our local hospitals in Monticello and Blanding can provide a good amount of subspecialty care through simple referrals put in at the Moab VA clinic. To me, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
This is made possible by the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), which is one of several programs through which a Veteran can receive care from a community provider, paid for by the VA.
If the VA cannot provide a needed medical service in a timely manner or the nearest VA medical facility is too far away or too difficult to get to, then a veteran may be eligible for care through the VCP.
Dunn said, “When patients were receiving Telehealth for their primary care, they had good services. But it’s better to have someone who’s in the area who’s more familiar with the services available.
“A lot of patients are still driving to Grand Junction when they could just get them right at their local hospital.”
She added that if veterans are in need of more specialized services than the Moab clinic or local hospitals can provide, she can refer them to facilities in Cortez, CO or Durango, CO, which are both closer than Grand Junction.
In addition to hospital services, San Juan County veterans can have VA prescriptions filled at their local pharmacy.
Veterans who qualify for VA healthcare are covered for glasses, hearing aids, regular checkups with their primary care provider, and even appointments with specialists. They can access veterans healthcare services like home health and geriatric care, get medical equipment, prosthetics, and more.
Dunn stated, “The complexity of the healthcare system can leave some patients confused, and they might miss out on benefits for which they may be eligible. Older patients who are using Medicare may not know that they can combine Medicare assistance with VA benefits to get more services, including hearing aids and eye screenings.”
She explained that there are even some services not routinely covered by Medicare that are available through the VA. This holds true for veteran patients who have access to Indian Health Service. They can still get hearing aids, eye care, and subspecialty referrals through the VA by establishing primary care at the Moab VA clinic.
Veterans can find out if they qualify for VA healthcare and get more information about the Veterans Choice Program by visiting VA.gov or by calling 844-698-2311.

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