COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Hundreds of thousands of active duty U.S. military members and veterans call Colorado Springs home. Yet the local VA clinic has some of the nation’s longest wait times for appointments.
The VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program is aimed at helping cut down the wait.
One of the program’s newest features, an app called “VA Video Connect” available on the Apple App Store and Google Play store, is aimed at helping veterans get their counseling through video chat.
The app allows veterans to communicate with counselors without having to make a trip to their local VA office. This tele-counseling option — similar to FaceTime or Skype — makes reaching out to mentors easier and can save hours in commuting time.
The app allows patients to access their counselor at an appointed time by emailing them a password to begin their counseling session.
The app isn’t only aimed at helping the clinics modernize — it’s also helping to lower wait times and making treatment easier to access.
The PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic in Colorado Springs has wrestled with wait times for years. Now, they’re embracing technology to combat the problem.
“Veterans simply download an app from the App Store and then their appointment’s pushed to them by the VA to the counselor,” said William F. Streitberger, Director of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment.
Streitberger says that this service is crucial.
The VA estimates 20 veterans take their own lives every day. Unfortunately, more than half of those people aren’t getting the VA care they need when it comes to suicide and PTSD. Sometimes, it’s simply too hard for them to make the trip.
“This has changed the way we serve veterans in very remote areas of the country to where they are highly congested metropolitan areas that take time, cost,” he said.
The program also features other enhancements to make the process as easy and comfortable as possible:
- Dragon Naturally Speak uses speech-to-text technology to help disabled Veterans fill out forms electronically without the need for typing. For Veterans who are visually impaired or have limited motor function, speech to text can provide a level of independence not previously available. They no longer have to live with the loss of privacy caused by asking someone else to help fill out forms.
- Electronic Virtual Assistant (e-VA) is an artificial intelligence tool that can answer some frequently asked questions from Veterans, as well providing appointment scheduling and reminders. E-VA will help busy Veterans connect to services electronically that they would otherwise need to access in person (pilot).
- E-Invoicing allows Veterans to receive benefits payments electronically. Veterans will no longer need to visit a VA office to access basic payment information (pilot).
- Case Management Solution Service integrates modernization improvements. Re-engineers processes to support digital and paperless and allows for rehabilitation workflows.