"A System Worth Saving" Task Force members discuss their visit. Photo by Craig Roberts

'System Worth Saving' visits D.C. VA center

Legion National Task Force Member, Tom Mullon, and Allison Murphy, Legion National Field Service Representative, are conducting an official "System Worth Saving" site visit at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center on June 15-16. During the course of the two-day site visit, Mullon and Murphy will meet with the facility director and executive leadership and representatives from business services, fiscal services, extended care and rehabilitation, primary and secondary care, mental health, the Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom outreach team, and the VA voluntary service office.

The D.C. VA Medical Center has approximately 500 new veterans enrolling each month. In addition, more than 100 construction projects are underway, including a new 77-bed domiciliary, expansion of the facility's operating and emergency rooms, a new Fisher House and new community-based outpatient clinics in southern Maryland.

Center Director Fernando Rivera said his facility has three main priorities at this time: female veterans, rural health care and homeless veterans. The medical center will soon be expanding its women's center to bring the number of patient exam rooms from four to eight and design the space to accommodate gender-specific needs and preferences of women veterans. Women veterans utilizing the D.C. VA Medical Center will be able to receive primary and specialized care in the same clinic as well as have a pharmacy at their disposal.

The facility will be increasing its efforts to assist veterans in rural communities. Southern Maryland has been identified as a rural community that the hospital is focusing its outreach on. New Community Based Outpatient Clinics will be built at Andrews Air Force base, Greenbelt, Patuxent River Naval Clinic and Southern Maryland/Charlotte Hall to bring medical care closer to those veteran communities.

In FY 2009, approximately 228 homeless veterans in Washington were placed in permanent HUD-VASH homes. The hospital is committed to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's goal of ending veteran homelessness within five years. In Washington, there are 1,500 homeless veterans and currently there is a case management ratio of one clinician to assist for every 35 homeless veterans.

In accordance with Resolution 206, approved at the Legion's National Convention in 2004, five National Field Service Representatives staff and the national commander's 12 appointed Task Force Members, conduct site visits to various VA medical center facilities from January to June annually. There are normally between 30 to 40 site visits during those months. After the site visits each year, the reports are compiled into a publication titled, "A System Worth Saving." The publications are distributed to members of the VA&R Commission at national convention and given to all the members of Congress and the White House. The goal of the System Worth Saving program is to assess the timeliness and quality of VA health care nationwide and to obtain veterans' feedback on their quality of care.

In 2010, The System Worth Saving Task Force completed 32 national site visits to the following VA Medical Centers: Providence, R.I.; Manchester, N.H.; Canandaigua, N.Y.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Bronx, N.Y.; Philadelphia; Salisbury, N.C.; Tuskegee, Ala.; Atlanta; Miami; Tampa, Fla.; Nashville; Lexington, Ky.; Cleveland; Iron Mountain, Mich.; Detroit; Milwaukee, Wisc.; Tomah, Wisc.; Marion, Ill.; Columbia, Md.; Alexandria, La.; Dallas; Phoenix; Grand Junction, Colo.; Sheridan, Wyo.; Portland, Ore.; Fresno, Calif.; Los Angeles; San Diego; Iowa City, Iowa; Hot Springs, S.D.; Washington, D.C.

The 2010 System Worth Saving publication will be distributed at national convention. For additional information or questions, please contact the VA&R Division at var@legion.org.