FAIRBORN — With increased collaboration between the VA and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, options for military members and veterans to get quality medical care are expanding.
State Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek) and other community leaders met with local residents at Wright State University to discuss issues and concerns surrounding military and veterans’ healthcare. Perales was joined on Friday by Mark Murdock, director of the Dayton VA Medical Center, and Col. Christian Lyons, commander of the 88th Medical Group at Wright-Patterson Medical Center. Murdock and Lyons answered questions from service members, veterans, and community members on topics ranging from increased medical transportation to military mental health.
Wright-Patterson and its surrounding communities have a proven track record of supporting those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, a statement which has been a mark of pride for the delegation seeking Space Command Headquarters here in the Dayton area.
“When the DoD and Congress look for a place for a new mission, i.e. Space Command, they look at the mission first,” said Perales. “But right after that, they look at ‘Can we take care of our troops?’ That’s where we have been doing well.”
Lyons also emphasized that Wright-Patt and Veterans Affairs have been working much more closely together in order to better serve retired military service members.
“We know that COVID times have changed the landscape, it makes people nervous about exploring new options or other, but we are vigorously charging ahead and we tell people that Wright-Patterson Medical Center is open for business,” said Lyons.
Recently, the VA partnered with the Department of Defense to install an Embedded Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) at Wright-Patterson Medical Center, which helps connect dual-eligible veterans with benefits they receive through both organizations. Dual eligibility is a program that came to fruition last year, and essentially gives veterans expanded access to healthcare through both WPMC and the VA. If there’s a service that Wright-Patterson or the VA can provide better or cheaper than the other, that organization can step into place to serve that veteran.
“We’re looking for those who have got that Tricare benefit, who are using that Tricare benefit in [WPMC] already, but who also qualify for VA benefits. It’s the best of both worlds” said Tim Draime, who works face-to-face with patients at WPMC.
Col. Lyons also addressed concerns surrounding military mental health. Recent reports of rising military suicide rates in the age of COVID-19 have brought the subject sharply into light.
“It’s been a point of great concern for all of our Air Force leaders,” Lyons said. “To the credit of Col. Patrick Miller, he’s pushed us really hard to stay connected, even though we can’t do it in person. I think one of the biggest success stories is that we are forming solid relationships from both a peer level, but also as leaders staying engaged with our airmen and making sure they’re doing okay and that their families are doing okay.”
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