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Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs Join Forces to Improve Health Care access for Florida Veterans

Image of DOD, VA join forces to improve healthcare access for Florida Veterans. Leadership from the Defense Health Agency, Department of Veterans Affairs, 6th Medical Group, 6th Air Refueling Wing, James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, and Florida Department of Veterans Affairs cut the ribbon to officially open the Sabal Park VA Clinic in Tampa, Fla., May 13, 2024. The VA clinic is collocated with the 6th Medical Group at Sabal Park.

After months of planning and collaboration, Defense Health Agency and Department of Veterans Affairs leadership celebrated the grand opening of a new VA clinic within the military clinic at Sabal Park with a ribbon-cutting May 13.

The VA clinic, located about 12 miles northeast of MacDill Air Force Base, shares a waiting room and check-in area with the 6th Medical Group to enhance timely, patient-centered customer service and care to both military and VA beneficiaries, officials said during the standing-room-only event.

“This ceremony highlights, and is a tangible reminder of, our shared commitment to the continuum of care; a commitment that extends from the first point of treatment to long after service members and their families leave the force,” said Defense Health Network Central Director Maj. Gen. Thomas Harrell, who attended the event on behalf of DHA.

The VA clinic offers access to primary care, mental health, dietary, social work, and pharmacy for over 3,600 area Veterans. In their shared space, the 6th Medical Group provides primary care, internal medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, immunizations, laboratory, radiology, and pharmacy services to military beneficiaries across the region.

“We are honored to be among the first sites chosen to reinvigorate joint efforts with the VA to improve health care access and services,” said Air Force Col. Erich Schroeder, commander, 6th Medical Group. “We look forward to working alongside our VA partners.”

The shared space will foster information sharing and joint training that will benefit both Department of Defense and VA beneficiaries, noted Dr. Shereef Elnahal, VA under secretary for health.

As an example, the two agencies plan to work together to bolster military medical readiness, he said, “knowing that we offer the types of complex training and exposures that active duty needs to prepare themselves to go to war and help their brothers and sisters in battle.”

The unified effort is a “win-win-win,” Harrell noted.

“It’s a win for Veterans able to get access to top-quality care in a convenient location; a win for our military providers, who can maintain their medical readiness skills while providing top-notch care to our patients; and a win for the entire community here, knowing that local Veterans are receiving the care they so richly deserve,” he said.

The Tampa-based partnership marks the latest in a series of DOD-VA sharing agreements to optimize resources and personnel and better serve military and veteran beneficiaries across the nation, said Elnahal, who listed additional sites in Colorado, Washington, Kentucky and Virginia, with more on the way.

While some sites, such as Sabal Park, are collocated to foster collaboration at this time, other facilities, based on current resources, also offer shared health care services and personnel.

“It is a no-brainer for us to work closely with [DOD] to be able to serve more Veterans than ever before across the country,” Elnahal said. “It is always a challenge to have capacity to meet that ever-growing demand, but it’s our obligation to catch up with that demand as much as possible.”

Sharing resources and improving integration and cooperation is the right thing to do for patients and medical staff, Harrell agreed.

“While our missions are unique, we share the same purpose – delivering safe, quality care to all who have served in uniform, their families, their caregivers and their survivors,” he said. “I have full confidence that the collaboration we are celebrating today is the right step to take for our beneficiaries and will set the bar high for future DOD-VA sharing agreements.”

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Last Updated: May 20, 2024
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