Health department to offer initial health screening for veterans
Beginning Jan. 14, newly-enrolled veterans in Haywood County and the seven western counties can receive their initial health screening for Veterans Administration benefits at the Haywood County Health Department, instead of driving to Asheville.
On Monday, Jan. 7, the Haywood County Board of Commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the Haywood County Health Department and the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville for health department clinic space to be used for the initial vesting appointment for new veterans.
By approving the MOU, Haywood County becomes the first county in the nation to roll out this type of partnership, which is part of the VA Medical Center’s Rural Health Initiative to increase healthcare access and health education for veterans. Brandon Wilson, Haywood County Veterans Service Officer, expects it to be the first of several health access and education activities that could operate in collaboration with the Haywood County Health Department in the next few years.
A vesting appointment, which involves blood work and a general health interview, is required before a veteran can be assigned a medical provider and start receiving medical benefits covered by the VA. By conducting these appointments at the Haywood County Health Department, Wilson anticipates the wait time for veterans will be cut from several months to a few weeks.
“This is an exciting step for Haywood County to be the first to enter into a partnership like this,” Wilson said. “Not only will it keep all veterans from Haywood County to Murphy from having to go to Asheville for this initial appointment, but they should be eligible for their health care benefits in 2-3 weeks instead of 2-3 months. I anticipate we will add additional services, like flu clinics or smoking cessation classes, over the next few years. This will save our veterans a lot of time and travel.”
Wilson thanked the Haywood County Health Department for supporting this initiative.
“Health Director Carmine Rocco and his staff have been instrumental in this collaboration and I applaud them for stepping up, as well as the commissioners for approving this partnership,” Wilson said.
To schedule an appointment, veterans must first complete the application (VA form 10-10-EZ) for healthcare, as well as be eligible for services. Applications are available online at www.va.gov/ or by contacting your county Veterans Services office. In Haywood County, the Veterans Services Office can be reached at 828.452.6634.