LAUGHLIN — Veterans from around the Tri-state attended a VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System meeting on Friday afternoon at Laughlin American Legion Post 60.
The meeting allowed veterans to receive an update on the Mission Act, VA service, care to the Laughlin community and the overall VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System.
Under the new VA Mission Act, the goal is to provide more accessible health care, including working with non-VA medical providers and telehealth through phone or computer.
“The recurring theme here is just getting access to healthcare in the rural community,” said Ramu Komanduri, chief of staff for the VA hospital in Las Vegas. “We know this is a growing, popular area for veterans. We need to get healthcare professionals down here.”
The VA is performing telehealth at the local VA Laughlin Rural Outreach Clinic. However, the agency seeks more face to face opportunities in the area as well as providing more incentives to recruit more staff and partner with other local healthcare systems in Bullhead City.
“To ultimately get the face to face part, we need to do a national effort,” Komanduri said. “That’s why we need to provide training programs and other opportunities for doctors to get used to this area and get comfortable.”
“We need to incentivize it. We were paying student loans off and other things, but we need to come up with other ways to get them here.”
The VA Southern Nevada Healthcare system is working with medical universities in and near Las Vegas.
The VA and the hospitals are building residency programs to get more doctors that hopefully will expand the pool of health professionals in the region. Komanduri said officials also are recruiting across the country to attract more professionals to come to Las Vegas and the Laughlin/Bullhead City area.
“It’s not an easy thing to do but we are working all the time,” Komanduri said.
Since Larry Adams moved to the Fort Mohave area from Los Angles three years ago, he never has seen the same doctor. He often has to drive to Las Vegas for his VA appointments and medication and needs to find time to get into the Laughlin clinic to get blood work done.
He also is having problems enrolling in his programs because the system still thinks he lives in Los Angles.
“Fortunately, I am a little younger than the rest of the crowd,” Adams said. “I know these guys have more headaches than I do, but I am not using everything 100 percent like I want to.”
“Blue Water” veterans can start submitting claims for veterans who have conditions recognized by the VA to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange. Some recognized conditions are lung cancer, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease.
If a Blue Water veteran has died, but the spouse is still alive, the spouse may be entitled to benefits.
The VA Laughlin Rural Outreach Clinic is functioning at office capacity. Two teams are there, primarily focusing on telemedicine.
There also is a veteran service officer who comes to the Laughlin American Legion post the last Tuesday of each month. Personnel are there from 9:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m.