Congressman Ryan Costello praises Lebanon VA Medical Center

Written by John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News | Apr 7, 2015 9:35 AM
Lebanon VA Med Center veterans 600x450.jpg

Photo by Lebanon Daily News

(Lebanon) -- Congressman Ryan Costello and a Democratic colleague are leading the effort to increase medical services for the nation's growing number of women military veterans.

Costello, a Chester County Republican whose Sixth Congressional District includes parts of Lebanon County, is a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Recently he along with fellow committee member Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada penned a letter to Richard Griffin, Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs, requesting a review of Veterans Health Administration policies to better identify the needs of female veterans.

About 10 percent of current veterans are women and that number is expected to grow in the coming years.

According to a recent report by the advocacy group Disabled American Veterans, 14 percent of current active duty military are women and more than 200,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Women also make up 20 percent of new recruits, the report says.

When he was in Lebanon holding office hours for constituents last week, Costello paid a visit to Lebanon VA Medical Center to inspect its Women's Health Clinic. He said he came away impressed.

"The Lebanon VA is an exceptional example of getting it right," he said. "But I think we are going to continue to need to invest resources to make sure that other facilities are designed properly, and the type of medical care and service providers female veterans need are made available to them, because we are going to see a growth in those medical needs.

Costello said the goal is to expand the care provided at facilities like the Lebanon VA to all other VA hospitals.

"A little bit more than 10 percent of returning veterans are females. And if you look at a lot of the medical facilities in the country, the physical space is not designed for the types of medical services female veterans often need," he said. "Because it is an entire system, what you are looking for is successful pilot programs and you want to replicate them and populate them around the country. "

Whether it will require a legislative fix is still to be determined, Costello said.

"We are going to work with the VA on this in terms of designating what the priorities are going to be and whether it is going to be on the legislative side or whether the VA will do it internally," he said.

Lebanon VA expanded its women's healthcare program in 2008 and opened the clinic in 2010, said spokesman Doug Etter.

"We recognized because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the increase in female recruits, that it would eventually translate into more female vets, so we made a big effort to ramp up our facilities and services for women," he said.

In addition to the hospital in South Lebanon Township, women's health care services are available at Lebanon VA's satellite clinics, and last year treatment was provied to nearly 3,600 women veterans, he said.

"We have a general women's health team at each of our six county-based out-patient clinics as well as here at the hospital," he said.

Each staff includes a clinical pharmacist, nutritionist and gynecologist. Obstetric services and significant gynecological surgical procedures are purchased from outside providers, Etter said. Women vets also have a choice of receiving primary care from their women's care provider, which is favored by many, he added.

"We at the Lebanon VA really try to put veterans first at all times, whether they are male or female, so we meet their family needs and patient needs," he said.

This article comes to us through a partnership between Lebanon Daily News and WITF. 

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