VA’s Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System hosted its first annual Louisiana Veterans Health Care Symposium in New Orleans April 20, to discuss ways to improve health care for their Veterans.
“This symposium brought together VA leaders and key Louisiana stakeholders to help build and foster relationships with the ultimate goal of delivering the best health care and service to our Veterans in the state of Louisiana,” said Fernando O. Rivera, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System director.
VA medical center directors from New Orleans, Shreveport and Alexandria, Louisiana, attended the event, along with nearly 50 Louisiana Veteran service organizations, the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs and congressional staff.
“All of us here in this room have pride in Louisiana’s VA system,” said Dr. Skip Palmintier, co-chair and medical advisor for the Veterans Action Coalition of Southwest Louisiana. “We had an excellent turnout today in an effort to create better communication among the group and to also have more education about the VA medical care for Veterans in Louisiana.”
The agenda for the symposium consisted of briefings by each of the three Louisiana VA medical center directors, Louisiana Veteran service organization commanders and the four VA directors participated in an hour and a half question and answer session, followed by a tour of the new Veterans medical center currently under construction in Mid-City New Orleans.
SLVHCS Director Fernando Rivera giving a tour of the New Orleans replacement facility during the Symposium.
“Connecting with the VSO state commanders and local congressional representatives in a forum like this ultimately helps Veterans receive the excellent health care they have earned and deserve,” said SLVHCS Director Fernando Rivera. “Having the knowledge gained here today enables VSO leaders to give Veterans in their organization accurate and up-to-date information.”
The VSO commanders asked questions about the Choice Program, mental health and traumatic brain injury care services, Veteran costs for non-VA emergency room visits, as well as long distance travel for Veterans with mobility difficulties and new clinic openings to meet demand.
“We have seen a seven percent growth in our workload, which is twice the national average,” said Rivera regarding the increase demand for Veterans seeking care at VA facilities compared to people seeking care at private and public health care facilities.
The symposium is the type of partnership and community involvement VA Secretary Bob McDonald wants to focus on through his MyVA framework.
“We should be focused on customer-service excellence: improve the Veteran experience, improve the employee experience, improve internal support services, establish a culture of continuous improvement, and expand strategic partnerships,” McDonald said recently.
In addition to information about programs and services, each of the medical center directors provided their personal contact information to those in attendance, similar in nature when McDonald provided his cell phone number to the media and Veterans alike shortly after taking the helm of VA.
“We take our mission of serving Veterans seriously,” said Rivera. “They need to know that we are here 24/7 to help resolve any Veterans’ health care issues.”
Louisiana Veterans of Foreign Wars State Surgeon Bryan Batulis along with Rivera and the New Orleans team, initiated the idea of holding the symposium and turning it into a annual event.
About the author: This article was written by VA Public Affairs Specialist Jessica Jacobsen.