Alaska VA hosts ‘Stand Down’ to tackle access problems
For the Veterans Affairs’ first-ever National Access Stand Down, employees were encouraged to spend the day catching up on work and refocusing their efforts on tackling one of the biggest challenges facing the VA — access.
“What we’ve done today is get out of the fray of everyday work and look at specific processes and making sure that we have things in place,” said Linda Boyle, the interim director of the Alaska VA.
She said Alaskan veterans face access challenges not seen in the Lower 48. Notably, travel expenses to medical appointments from remote areas are pricier than elsewhere. Moreover, if a veteran here cannot find the care they need, they might be forced to seek treatment out-of-state. However, Boyle said being a veteran in Alaska has its advantages.
“We’re able to use partnerships that people in the Lower 48 don’t have access to,” said Boyle, adding that veterans in the Bush have access to Native health centers so they don’t always have to travel to Fairbanks or Anchorage for treatment.
The VA hosted medical appointments on Saturday at their Muldoon Road clinic to allow veterans who work Monday through Friday an opportunity to get treated.
“Today is fabulous,” said Navy veteran Joe Lozano. He said coming in on a Saturday prevents him from “missing the opportunity to do work.”
Nine veterans came in for scheduled appointments Saturday. The VA has roughly 70,000 veterans in Alaska, 17,000 of which are active in the healthcare system.
Employees came in on a voluntary basis, although they were paid.
“The VA is very serious about bringing people in and providing access timely to patients and taking time to step away from our regular workday to focus on this today,” said Alaska VA Healthcare System chief of staff Cynthia Joe.
Saturday’s event was separate from previous stand downs hosted by the VA, which were outreach programs aimed at helping homeless veterans.
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