Initiative to expand health care choices for veterans

  • Tim Niejadlik, director of the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District, at the telehealth computer station at the Greenfield office at 294 Main St. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2021 6:49:20 PM

GREENFIELD — An open house on Monday will mark the start of a new collaborative initiative designed to provide veterans with more access to Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and telehealth capabilities.

The initiative was announced this week by the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District and VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System. The new service allows VA health care enrollees the option to use a dedicated, private telehealth access location at the veterans’ service office at 294 Main St. in Greenfield to meet with their providers by video conference. Advances in video conferencing applications have created this opportunity for veterans to use technology to access the health care they receive from the VA.

Tim Niejadlik, director of the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District, said the new initiative will help both veterans who do not wish to drive long distances for certain health appointments, and those who do not have internet access or the technology to participate in telehealth calls from home.

“Sadly, there are still towns in the district that don’t have internet for residents,” Niejadlik said. “And, a lot of our clients are older folks, over the age of 75, who may not be as tech savvy or don’t have a camera on their computer.”

He also said, for example, a veteran has scheduled a time to use the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans Services District’s new service for a telehealth appointment next week, so they can avoid driving all the way to their clinician in Hartford, Conn. Niejadlik said veterans can call the center to reserve the time for a telehealth appointment, and the veterans group will help set up and email a link for their virtual meeting. If needed, the office will also help older veterans set up an email account, should they not already have one.

“Sometimes our veterans are not familiar with the internet applications or may not have the proper computer hardware,” Niejadlik said in a press release. “With this new telehealth portal, a veteran and his provider can reserve a time to use our location to conduct a video appointment. We see this telehealth emphasized by the VA more and more, allowing them to reach more veterans. We want to help provide this service to our district and will walk the veteran through the process from start to finish during their appointment.”

The Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District operates its Veteran Resource and Referral Center in Greenfield, along with satellite locations throughout the district. Member towns include all Franklin County towns except Orange, but Niejadlik said the services are open to all veterans.

A long-term goal, Niejadlik said, may be for veterans to be able to set up telehealth appointments through the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans’ Services District’s satellite locations. Should an elderly veteran not be able to drive from Rowe, for example, he said a veterans services member could bring a Microsoft Surface Pro laptop to the satellite location for an appointment.

“We’re just trying to overcome that last barrier that folks have to access health services,” Niejadlik said.

This new program will launch Monday, with an open house at the 294 Main St. office from 10 to 11 a.m. Member towns’ selectboards and representatives have been invited to visit the center and learn more about the initiative.

Veterans should discuss future appointments with their VA health care providers to see if telehealth is a good option for them. For more information on VA telehealth, visit telehealth.va.gov/what-telehealth.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.




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