VA provides virtual care at a Legion post

The American Legion continues to work closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to advocate for veterans and to ensure that they receive quality health care in a timely manner. American Legion Morvay-Miley Post 524 in Ocean City, N.J., is a leading example of our advocacy efforts.

The post is the first in the country to offer telehealth, a VA pilot program that will provide virtual health-care services at the post. The service will provide a relief for local veterans who normally would have to travel more than 70 minutes each way to get health care at the VA facilities in Wilmington, Del., or Philadelphia.

Post 524 celebrated the grand opening of its new 4,800-square-foot home on April 14, with VA staff present to announce their unique partnership.

Vince Kane, director of Wilmington VA Medical Center, from where the virtual care will originate, said the ground-breaking partnership came as a result of Legion-VA conversations about delivery of care. “People like (New Jersey Department Executive Committeeman) Jim Scanlon and others have been meeting with us for some time to talk about what are the needs of veterans: those that call Cape May County home, as well as those that visit,” Kane said. “Together, we came up with some ideas that would allow some of the newer technology in VA – the virtual care – to be utilized in this beautiful brand new building.

“We have outreach teams from (the Wilmington VAMC) stationed here in South Jersey that work with veterans. If they come across a veteran … they’ll be able to call our outreach team, (and) we can show up and connect them to providers inside the VA, whether that’s for health care or mental health care.”

The virtual care equipment is portable and stays with the outreach team. The team will bring the equipment to Post 524 and then talk to the veteran at the post.

“We can dial up a provider, send them a link, and the provider will come up on the screen and we will have a session right there,” Kane said.

An example of using telehealth would be an appointment for a checkup if a veteran couldn’t get a timely appointment in one of the clinics. Telehealth would not handle cases in which a specialist is needed or matters that require a hospital visit.

Jacqueline Hinker, veterans community outreach specialist for Southern New Jersey, said having the Legion post available for virtual care sessions “makes it so much more convenient. We can get to the veteran a lot quicker in one utilized space. This will make it so much easier: to have a space to sit down that veterans know they can come to on a regular basis.”

Kane said having the service available at Post 524 allows “VA to be more in the community and to have the community know what VA can do for them. To be able to address their needs right there, in real time, makes all the difference in the world for that veteran and for our mission.

“It shows you the innovation of the leadership team here at the Legion. These types of innovations are imperative. Here you’re going to a Legion post and getting the help you need.”

That’s one of the missions of Post 524.

“We always have been about veterans serving veterans,” Post 524 Commander Bob Marzulli said. “We’re going to offer that veteran to come here and meet face to face with their doctor and feel comfortable in a post environment. We’re going to provide them a secure place. I think that it’s critical for us to do that.”