One of The American Legion’s top legislative priorities is to ensure that veterans living in rural communities receive quality, equitable access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care. One of the methods by which The American Legion is making strides in this area is through an alliance with VA and Philips North America to reach the nearly one-third of the nine million veterans whom VA serves living in rural communities.
Project ATLAS (Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations) brings VA health-care access closer to veterans through an innovative program in which Philips and The American Legion work together to combine the convenience of the retail clinic model with Philips telehealth technology and access to VA care givers — right in the local American Legion post.
During recent testimony before both the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs, American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford testified on the strides VA has made in expanding its telehealth access during the COVID-19 pandemic. But he also noted these options are largely only available to veterans who have the proper computer access and technology.
“For many of our nation’s older veterans, that’s just not a reality,” Oxford said. “That’s why Project ATLAS is so important. This month, we will be opening a new location at American Legion Post 12 in Wickenburg, Ariz. And due to a recent decommissioning of a VA outpatient clinic, a third Project ATLAS site will soon open at American Legion Post 5 in Emporia, Kan.”
The first site is in Springfield, Va., while others in Ohio and West Virginia are also in the works, Oxford said.
For veterans in Arizona, the Wickenburg site offers a unique opportunity.
“The opening of Project ATLAS in Wickenburg represents a first-of-its-kind opportunity for Arizona veterans to access the care and benefits they’ve earned, no matter where they live,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, announced in a release. “I’m proud of our work with the VA, American Legion and Philips North America to bring Project ATLAS to Arizona. I look forward to continuing our partnership as we serve Arizona veterans across the state.”
American Legion Department of Arizona Commander Ken Queen praised the efforts, noting the importance of such a facility, especially with the added impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on veterans.
“The American Legion Department of Arizona is proud to be a part of the collaborative efforts of the VA and Philips to bring the first VA telehealth care system to our Legion post in Wickenburg,” he said.
“Veterans in Wickenburg, regardless of whether or not they belong to a veterans service organization, will soon have the option of visiting their VA health-care provider via the telehealth system in Wickenburg rather than traveling to a VA medical care facility in Prescott or even Phoenix. The benefits of using telehealth are considerable; especially in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Following his congressional testimony, Oxford visited the Project ATLAS site at American Legion Post 176 in Springfield, Va. The location of this post enables veterans living in the Washington, D.C., area to have access to their VA health-care team, while mitigating the stress and expenses that come with traveling to a VA medical center. VA has established procedures at ATLAS sites to reduce risk of spreading COVID-19. These procedures are based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency.
To learn more about Project ATLAS, visit https://connectedcare.va.gov/partners/atlas.