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VA Creating Advisory Panel on Rural Health

Peake: We're Bringing Care Closer to Veterans

BILLINGS, Mont., Feb. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake today announced the creation of a special "Rural Health National Advisory Committee" to advise him and the senior leaders of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) about health care issues affecting veterans in rural areas.

"In the last decade, VA has created outpatient clinics that bring health care closer to where veterans actually live," Peake said. "This advisory committee, working within the highest levels of VA, will ensure the Department remains responsive to the health care needs of rural veterans."

While Peake said many of the details of the panel are still being formulated, the committee will consist of members familiar with rural health issues. The members will come from the federal, state and local sectors, academia and veterans service organizations.

The advisory committee will provide guidance to Peake and to Dr. Michael J. Kussman, VA's Under Secretary for Health. The panel's first meeting is tentatively scheduled for this summer.

VA has 25 similar advisory committees, each with between 10 and 15 members. Members are typically appointed to one-, two- or three-year terms to ensure continuity of operations.

See the attachment, "Milestones for VA's Rural Health Initiative."

Milestones for VA's Rural Health Initiative

-- Established Office of Rural Health in VA headquarters (February 2007)

-- First report to Congress on improving access to mental health and long-term health in rural areas (September 2007)

-- Increased mileage reimbursements for patients for first time in 30 years (February 2008)

-- Expanding current programs that provide:

* Services to Native American veterans

* Mental health

* Long-term care

-- Expanding existing telehealth programs and investigating new applications

* VA patients in 30 states now use telehealth devices

* Established telehealth training center for VA professionals in Lake City, Fla. (January 2004)

-- Current technology permits

* Patient care coordination among health care professionals

* Exchange of routine clinical data from home-bound patients

* Continuity of care to mobile senior "snowbirds"

-- Projects under consideration

* Mobile health care vans

* Transportation grants

* Collaborating with non-VA facilities

* Patient education through "pod" casts

SOURCE U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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