A first-of-its-kind partnership
The Department of Veterans Affairs and Post 524 in Ocean City, N.J., are teaming up to bring VA virtual care to local veterans. (Photo by Corey Perrine)

A first-of-its-kind partnership

On April 14, Morvay-Miley Post 524 celebrated the second of three grand openings for its brand new – and first-ever – post facility. Local and state government officials joined Post 524 Legion Family members and state and national Legion leaders at the event.

Also attending were Department of Veterans Affairs staff, who were there to tout a unique partnership between the post and VA. In the first such arrangement of its kind in the nation, a Department of Veterans Affairs outreach team will provide virtual 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 either of the VA facilities in Wilmington, Del., or Philadelphia.

“This is the future,” New Jersey National Executive Committeeman Chuck Robbins said. “It’s important in this area because you’re in South Jersey, and it’s a long way to travel to the Philadelphia or (Wilmington) VA hospitals. It’s real important that the veterans in this area get the proper treatment and get it fast, if needed.”

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 the post 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.

Jacqueline Hinker, Veterans Community Outreach Specialist for Southern New Jersey, said having the post available for virtual care sessions “makes it so much more convenient. Our outreach teams spend a lot of time embedded in the community. 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. So to have those services almost be available on the spot makes all the difference in the world – especially if you have a veteran in crisis. 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. “I’ve taken that bus ride down to the VA in Wilmington. It’s a long day.

“We’re going to offer that veteran to come here and meet face to face with their doctor in Wilmington 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.”