Veteran service is first in the nation

By Vicki Hyatt | Jan 08, 2013
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Brandon Wilson, Haywood County veteran services officer

Thanks to speedy county commissioner action, along with an on-the-ball veteran services representative, Haywood County is set to become the first place in the nation where veterans can expedite their initial appointment at a veterans medical center.

The program is part of the VA Medical Center’s Rural Health Initiative to increase healthcare access and health education for veterans. As part of the partnership, the Haywood County health department will provide one examination room and one interview room where a representative from the Charles George Veteran Affairs Medical Center in the Oteen area of Buncombe County can assess the  health needs of area veterans.

Brandon Wilson, Haywood County's veterans service officer, expects it to be the first of several health access and education activities that could operate in collaboration with the health department in the next few years.

A memorandum of understanding stipulates that all liability issues associated with such a visit will be borne by the VA Medical Center. The service will be provided at no cost to county taxpayers.

Although Henderson and Yancey county leaders signed the memorandum of understanding before Haywood, Brandon Wilson, the county’s veterans service representative, made arrangements with the county health department to have the first scheduled visit in Haywood on Jan. 14, two days before the visit scheduled in Henderson County.

“That will make us first in the nation,” Wilson said proudly.

At present, veterans needing medical care through a federal veteran medical center can wait two to three months for an initial appointment where their health is assessed and a physician is assigned.

Under the rural initiative, veterans in Western North Carolina will be able to schedule a visit at the Haywood County health department and medical care can be provided within two to three weeks, Wilson told the commissioners Monday.

Initially, veteran visits in Haywood will be scheduled once a month, but that could increase up to three times a month as demand rises. Wilson said veterans from farther west will also likely use the Haywood site.

Commissioners approved the request.

“It appears this is really an opportunity for our veterans,” said Commissioner Mike Sorrells. “It really is a trip over to Oteen.”

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 452-6634.

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