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More vets could be headed to DOD medical sites to get VA health care

Fort Campbell’s Army hospital in Tennessee will open its doors to veteran patients for the first time next month, part of a series of partnerships between military and Veterans Affairs medical facilities that officials hope will make health care easier to access.

Local leaders unveiled details of the new arrangement on Friday, which will allow VA staffers to operate in offices at the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital and provide dental care, women’s health care, intensive care, and pain management services to nearby veterans. Officials expect to serve about 3,000 veterans living in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The move comes a few weeks after the two departments announced a similar partnership at Naval Hospital Pensacola in Florida, with VA staff moving into unused military medical space to provide more health care options for local veterans.

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VA Deputy Assistant Under Secretary for Health for Operations Al Montoya said 12 more partnerships are under discussion, with department staffers expected to open doors to new medical offices at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, in the coming weeks.

“We are leveraging every tool that we have at our disposal to expand health care access for veterans and address our aging infrastructure,” he said. “It’s really about placing the care as close to the veteran as possible, and utilizing the Defense Department partnership arrangements that we have.”

VA operates 172 medical centers and more than 1,100 outpatient sites across the country, but department leaders for years have noted that many of those facilities are aging and in need of significant upgrades. The average age of VA hospitals is nearly 60 years old.

Meanwhile, demands for VA medical care have increased in recent years, especially with the expansion of health care eligibility through legislation like the PACT Act. Montoya said identifying and utilizing extra space at Defense Department locations provides a potential solution to those problems, placing care options closer to where many veterans live.

VA staff will handle care and appointment issues at the new offices within the military facilities. But in a statement, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Lester Martinez-Lopez said the arrangement will “help our medical professionals maintain their readiness skills” in some cases.

The two departments already jointly operate the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Illinois, treating active-duty patients, family members and veterans. And the two departments also jointly occupy 176 medical sites across the country, although most are smaller clinics with limited health care options.

Montoya said officials hope to use that model to more aggressively expand options in the future, to the benefit of veterans.

VA officials said the Fort Campbell region in Tennessee is one of the most rapidly growing veteran communities in the country, with more than 21,000 veterans enrolled in department health care and another 29,000 veterans eligible.

The department has also planned three new outpatient clinics for the area, but those are not expected to be completed until fiscal 2027.

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