Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council to Update on “Health Care in Our Community” Initiative
On July 19, after six months of collaboration with representatives from all the major health care providers in the Lehigh Valley, the Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council (LVMAC) will host a luncheon meeting to present a “Health Care in Our Community” project status report. The chief executive officers of all the Valley’s hospitals will attend this historic gathering. [Editor’s Note: This is not an event open to the public but a business meeting for those who have partnered through LVMAC.]
“We are truly blessed in having this level of community commitment to the cause of improving military and veteran health care,” stated Eric Johnson, LVMAC’s project leader and a U.S. Air Force Operation Enduring Freedom veteran. “Each and every one of the participating organizations has a deep rooted desire to help a uniquely diverse group of military veterans and their families. We kicked off a project that built upon these already evident commitments and started forging partnerships with the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Defense (DoD) to help them become even more successful.”
“With about 50,000 military veterans plus their families living in Lehigh and Northampton counties, the goal of ensuring our veterans receive the best possible care is challenging but achievable, if we all work together. Veterans and their family members already actively seek the excellent medical care available in the Valley,” said Major General Jerry Still, USAF (Retired), the current President of LVMAC.
Rich Hudzinski, a retired U.S. Army officer and the Chairman of the Council’s Veterans Affairs Committee responsible for the project, stated, “The Lehigh Valley represents the more typical American community affected by war and its aftermath, but remote from VA and DoD hospitals and in a ‘Reserve Land’ situation. The community’s medical service providers are capable of better helping when the VA and DoD effectively consult and coordinate with them. The President’s ‘Joining Forces’ initiative was a signal to us. Last Fall, we decided we wanted to demonstrate how improvements in health care services can be made.
“Whether it’s an Agent Orange exposed Vietnam vet or an Iraqi Freedom vet subjected to a mild traumatic brain injury, these patients are best served when their medical providers are fully informed and when the myriad of health care and social service resources are linked together.” Just to illustrate the point further, there are at least 14 diseases and medical conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure, many of which can be misdiagnosed or poorly treated when their root cause is unknown to the primary care physician or other health care provider.
Eric Johnson remarked upon the first visible result of the effort. All the participating health care providers are now linked through a formally designated Veterans Affairs Liaison Officer (VALO) for each organization. It was an important first step, for with VALOs in place and actively participating in monthly project workshops, the conversation about the importance of veteran-unique health care delivery requirements and how best to fulfill them through more integrated partnership truly began.
To date, the civilian health care system VALOs have performed an initial assessment of existing and proposed (future) veteran- and military-unique service provisions in their organizations. They are now exploring a systematic approach to properly and discretely screen veterans and military service members in an effort to better serve them.
As Johnson explained, “In order to provide the best possible care and other social services to this community, we need to know who the veterans are when they hit our many points of entry. Once we know they are veterans, we can better ensure that improved coordination with the VA and other government health care providers is accomplished, when appropriate, and that service-connected conditions are addressed more fully – or integrated into medical treatment plans/protocols.”
The Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council (LVMAC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was founded in 2003 by a group of concerned veterans as an association of veteran and non-veteran organizations. It was formed to address local problems in the Valley through harnessing and integrating existing resources or creating them—for the benefit of veterans, serving military (Active or Reserve Component), and their families. To accomplish its vision, LVMAC believes a whole community—local businesses, government agencies, veterans and other service organizations, military organizations, schools and colleges, hospitals, religious and other institutions, and concerned individuals—must work together.
LVMAC operates only in the counties of Lehigh and Northampton in Pennsylvania, but its membership is open to any public or private organization or individual, regardless of location, willing to support its mission, goals, and objectives for the Lehigh Valley military-veterans community. For more information, go to its website at www.lvmac.org.
 Source: United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Public Health web site, “Veterans Diseases Associated with Agent Orange” posted at: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/diseases.asp#veterans
As of 29 June 2012