Healthcare Providers Seek to Identify Veterans to Improve Their Care Healthcare in Our Community

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Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council (LVMAC) Alliance’s Screening Marks a National First

The Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council (LVMAC) and an alliance of every hospital in the Lehigh Valley announced an initiative to identify veterans during the hospital registration process today. Much in the same way patients are asked if they feel safe in their home, all adult patients soon will be asked whether they are a veteran. Eric Johnson, co-chair for the project and LVMAC member made the announcement.

Leaders from Lehigh Valley Health Network, St. Luke’s University Health Network, Westfield Hospital, Sacred Heart Hospital, Easton Hospital, Coordinated Health, and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network have agreed to implement the screening as part of an alliance formed through the Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council (LVMAC) formed in 2011.

“The experiences and environments that those who served in the military endured can contribute to their overall health, morbidities, and use of services,” said Eric Johnson, co-chair for the project and LVMAC member. “However, service-related issues may go undiagnosed if the clinicians are unaware of their patients’ military status.”

Johnson said since veterans often have unique needs as they transition back to civilian life and also often sustain long-term illnesses and injuries, sometimes life-threatening, from military service, proactive awareness and education on the part of the local, professional medical establishment is necessary. He said veterans’ care requires a community-wide investment and commitment in these times.

Enrollment has significantly increased for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care to almost 40 percent across the nation as a result of their aging or the current war. Only 25 percent of veterans actually used the VA healthcare system last fiscal year, relying instead on community healthcare systems. Despite the availability of VA healthcare in our area, less than 17 per cent of all veterans in the Lehigh Valley used it one or more times in a year and most had dual care.

This means the vast majority of veterans living here, let alone their families, use community hospital networks when they seek care.

Johnson said the questions will be phrased as follows based on surveys of veterans:
1. Have you served in the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty?
2. Were you activated, into active duty, as a member of the National Guard or as a Reservist?

The final implementation of this screening protocol in all hospitals in the Lehigh Valley area is to be completed by March 31, 2014. St. Luke’s, Coordinated Health, Good Shepherd and Sacred Heart are well on their way and Lehigh Valley Health Network will launch its program in November to coincide with Veteran’s Day. The Veterans Advocacy Liaison Officers (VALOs) assigned to the project believe that the Lehigh Valley will be the first area in the country where all the local hospitals in a community universally screen veterans.

The ultimate goal, once a veteran is identified, is to have practitioners treat veterans’ diseases and ailments with a full understanding that their healthcare issues could be the result of their previous military service. The task force is currently working to increase clinical awareness of the impact of military service. A resource guide for clinicians is being developed and an education program being established.

“It will take time, but with the fantastic assistance we have received from our medical community, we’ll get there,” said Maj. Gen. Jerry Still, USAF-Retired, president of LVMAC. “We’re hoping the federal government will come to appreciate such a regional effort and work with us more and more.”


If you would like more information, please contact one of the Co-Chairmen of the Healthcare in Our Community Project: Eric Johnson, Jr., 484-884-8749 or Alexander Alex, 610-986-4304.

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jeff vaughan

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