Access to Healthcare: Are Veterans getting the attention they need?

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BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — The Beckley VA Medical Center covers eleven counties and serves more than 12,400 veterans in Southern West Virginia.

For veterans receiving those services, it can be a life-saving difference. But, there are barriers to that kind of healthcare access. Garett Schreier is the Nurse Executive for the VAMC in Beckley. He said a main barrier is a lack of knowledge about the type of care that’s offered and where it can be accessed.

“The first part is determining their eligibility and then going from there,” Schreier said. “We have staff here on campus that are more than willing and able to help our veterans. The other part of that, is we strongly encourage any of our veterans and family members that are involved in the VA system to send veterans that are not getting healthcare our way.”

The COVID-19 pandemic increased barriers to healthcare by putting strain on staffing and supplies in healthcare systems across the nation. Combined with an aging population and addressing pandemic needs, healthcare systems like the VAMC have faced new challenges.

“The systems are, I don’t want to say overwhelmed, but they are definitely being used,” Schreier said. “There is a great need for healthcare by all American citizens today. Well, the VA is no different than that. Our veterans, the population here in West Virginia especially, is much older. A large portion of our veteran population is greater than 65-years-old, so with that, becomes unique issues and challenges.”

Schreier said the VAMC offers a variety of care for veterans in the area ranging from primary and specialized care to mental health, geriatric and hospice needs.

Despite their success, he said there is a constant need to locate gaps in healthcare to serve those who served us.

“We continue as a VA to have to look at what we’re doing to ensure that we have access, ensure we are hiring in the right areas. If we need to increase our access because we are getting too far out to where we can get people in with primary care, that’s our responsibility,” Schreier said. “That’s not a veteran’s challenge, that’s our challenge.”

To speak with an enrollment coordinator for the Beckley VA Medical Center, call 304-255-2121.

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