Friday, February 22, 2008

Secretary says VA must do better for rural veterans

Since hospitals can be far way and doctors sparse, rural veterans face challenges their urban counterparts do not when it comes to health care. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. James B. Peake spoke in Helena, Mont., this week and promised to improve the care rural veterans receive, reports Eric Newhouse of the Great Falls Tribune. (Newhouse also took the photo of Peake, speaking, and Sen. Jon Tester, who invited him.)

"Peake, who was appointed to the post by President George Bush two months ago, said that more than one-third of Montana's vets live in extreme rural conditions, compared to about 1.7 percent of vets nationwide," Newhouse writes. Earlier that day, Peake announced the creation of a rural health advisory committee to advise senior leaders of the agency about health care issues affecting veterans in rural areas.

"Rural environments make it a challenge to hire mental health care professionals, as you have found in Montana," Peak said during the meeting with veterans. Peake mentioned the VA is "exploring making greater use of tele-health care for some conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder," Newhouse writes.(Read more)

A news release from the VA offers an overview of the advisory panel's goals. The VA's Web site also links to a 2004 study comparing rural and urban veterans, which "shows those in rural areas are in poorer health than their urban counterparts."

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