Thursday, March 21, 2019
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20181107 VA Traveling Veterans SherylRusso 0196The VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health System for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides services for veterans in a 21-county area that stretches from Corpus Christi to Laredo to Brownsville, including the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.

According to Sheryl Russo, Traveling Veterans Coordinator with TVCBHS in Harlingen, approximately 4500 veterans are traveling veterans who come to Texas each year seeking a warmer winter climate. Of that 4500, about 1800 need medical services of some kind while they are in the Valley. Because each veteran is assigned to a VA facility and primary care team according to his or her permanent home address, the veteran’s records need to be shared before he/she can receive coordinated care in the Valley.

Each veterans group nationwide has a traveling coordinator," said Russo, who helps veterans arrange non-emergency appointments at veterans facilities while they are in the Valley. Most veterans residing in Hidalgo County during their stay go to the veterans outpatient facility in McAllen, while those residing in Cameron county visit the veterans outpatient clinic in Harlingen. The traveling veterans program was mandated three years ago by the federal government to make it easier for traveling veterans to get medical assistance wherever they go.

When TVCBHS receives a relocation request from a traveling veteran, the coordinators request their health files showing what treatments the veteran needs, whether it be oncology services, physical therapy, lab work, mental health care, orthopedics, prosthetics, or prescription medications. Once the veteran’s program needs are on file with TVCBHS it is much easier to get an appointment for the treatments needed because the information is already available.

Lynda Perez, also a Traveling Veterans Coordinator, said if the services the veteran needs are not available at the outpatient clinics, the patient may be sent to doctors associated with the South Texas Medical Center, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Laredo Medical Center, Harlingen Medical Center, Spohn Health Care System, Valley Baptist Hospital or Doctors Hospital of Laredo for treatment.

Rey Leal, public affairs officer for the Harlingen Veterans Clinic, said the purpose of the program is to get away from having walk-ins, which can cause greater wait times and other delays in receiving the services veterans need.

"We want to make veterans lives easier while they are traveling, " said Leal. "Part of that service is to see they are able to get prompt medical care when they need it."

"Medicines taken continuously must be transferred from their home unit, which can take several days. If the information has already been given, the medicine can be transferred in a timely manner so they are here when the veteran needs them," said Russo.

Leal added, "Veterans who are coming with health issues need to take advantage of the program while they are still at home to be sure their records are on file here in a medical emergency. Veterans who are already here who know veterans from back home who are coming [to South Texas] should tell them to be sure and transfer their records to TVCBHS to avoid long waits in time of illness. Be sure and list any temporary phone number and addresses where a veteran can be reached in the Valley.

“A lot of it is communication,” said Leal. “When a veteran is traveling out of his/her home area, we want this to be part of the veterans checklist of things to do. Contact the traveling veterans coordinator so we can coordinate your care.”

For more information call Sheryl Russo or Lynda Perez at (956) 291-9207 or fax them at (956) 291-9392.

The TVCBHS has six clinics to serve veterans.
Harlingen VA Outpatient Clinic
2106 Treasure Hills Blvd.
Harlingen, TX 78550
Phone: (956) 366-4500
Fax: (956) 366-4501
Health Care Clinic at Harlingen
2601 Veterans Dr.
Harlingen, TX 78550
Phone: (956) 291-9000.
McAllen VA Outpatient Clinic
901 E. Hackberry Ave.
McAllen, TX 78503
Phone: (956) 618-7100
Fax: (956) 992-9847
Laredo VA Outpatient Clinic
4602 N. Bartlett
Laredo, TX 78401
Phone (956) 523-7850
Corpus Christi VA Outpatient Clinic
5283 Old Brownsville Road
Corpus Christi, TX 78405
Phone: (361) 806-5600
Corpus Christi Specialty Clinic
205 S. Enterprise Pkwy.
Corpus Christi, TX 78405
Phone: (361) 939-6510

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