VA program aids healthcare access for Valley veterans

dfwnewsa | January 3, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

VA program aids healthcare access for Valley veterans
Veterans living in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend region now have the option of getting a free lift to and from medical appointments via VA Uber Health Connect. (Courtesy: VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System/Facebook)
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Veterans living in the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend region now have the option of getting a free lift to and from medical appointments via VA Uber Health Connect (VUHC), a new Veterans Health Administration program aimed at eliminating transportation as an issue for veterans who need health care.

The VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System recently implemented the initiative as part of its expansion to 60 VA medical centers, following a successful pilot program at 10 VA medical centers in 2022. From January 2022 to March 2023, Uber provided more than 30,000 rides to veterans covering 408,529 miles through the pilot program, the VA said.

“These rides have increased access, improved clinical engagement, and saved VA an estimated $35 million,” the department reported. “The cost savings are in part from faster emergency department and inpatient discharges as well as closing the gap on an estimated 28,000 missed appointments.”

Now veterans in 18 states and Puerto Rico have access to supplemental transportation to and from doctors appointments and other non-emergency medical care, according to VA, which said transportation remains one of the biggest barriers to veterans’ access to health care.

“Veterans may face a wide range of transportation challenges ranging from not having access to transportation to relying on a caregiver who may be unavailable or to needing a long-distance drive to their nearest VA,” the department said.

A survey of 2,300 veterans between March 2022 to January 2023 showed that 83% of respondents would not have been able to access healthcare without Uber Health Connect, the VA said.

“This is a life-altering program that offers our most vulnerable veterans transportation to health care the moment they need it,” said Homero S. Martinez III, VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System director. “It also advances our ability to offer more accessible, equitable health care to our veteran community.”

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Indra Sandal, the program’s national lead, said it “bridges the transportation gap by ensuring veterans have reliable transportation.”

“By offering ride sharing as an additional means of transportation, VA is helping veterans access the best and soonest possible care while still achieving cost savings,” she said.

The American Hospital Association says that transportation challenges prevent 3.6 million U.S. residents annually from receiving medical care, and that veterans, children and older adults are especially vulnerable due to social isolation, underlying medical conditions and more frequent need for clinician visits.

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Valley veterans interested in finding out more about VA Uber Health Connect should may contact Stephenie Ochoa at (956) 856-5913 or stephenie.ochoa@va.gov.

The post VA program aids healthcare access for Valley veterans appeared first on MyRGV.com.

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