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NEWS | Jan. 14, 2014

Physical Therapy, Dermatology VA-DOD joint projects approved

By Tonya Lobbestael, Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Public Affairs officer , Naval Health Clinic Charleston, Public Affairs officer

The Low Country Federal Healthcare Alliance announced Jan. 13, 2014, that it received approval for two projects funded through the federal government's Joint Incentive Fund to provide physical therapy and dermatology services for veterans, active-duty servicemembers and DOD beneficiaries.

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and Naval Health Clinic Charleston are establishing a shared physical therapy clinic at NHCC located at Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station. The clinic will be staffed by two VA physical therapists, two physical therapy assistants and a medical services assistant who will be providing services in the existing NHCC Physical Therapy clinic area. Additional physical therapy equipment is also included in the $807,000 project. Access to care for VA and DOD beneficiaries is expected to improve, with appointments provided in a convenient location that offers abundant parking for patients.

"This funding approval from the Health Executive Council will provide much-needed specialty care for all of our beneficiaries and will serve to strengthen the partnership between VA and DOD," said Navy Capt. Marvin Jones, NHCC commanding officer.

A shared VA-DOD dermatology clinic is also approved for Naval Hospital Beaufort and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. The clinic, which will be located at the Naval Hospital Beaufort, will be staffed by a VA dermatologist, licensed practical nurse and administrative specialist. Currently, Naval Hospital Beaufort refers its dermatology patients for care in the community and VA patients must travel to the VA medical center in Charleston. The addition of dermatology in Beaufort is expected to save both organizations approximately $257,500 per year and eliminate the need for VA patients to travel up to 100 miles to Charleston for care.

"The addition of dermatology services means patients who would have been sent to another clinic will now be able to receive that specialty care in the same location where they receive other medical services," said Navy Capt. Anne Lear Naval Hospital Beaufort commanding officer.

"Our VA-DOD partnership benefits Veteran and DOD patients in so many ways," said Carolyn Adams, Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center director. "Working together we are able to provide the specialty care they need closer to home while saving taxpayer dollars, improving continuity of patient and family centered care and easing the transition from active duty to veteran status. We are incredibly proud of our track record for successful collaborations which has been recognized by both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. And we are especially proud to be serving our heroes who have sacrificed so much for our freedom."

The Low Country Federal Healthcare Alliance is a VA-DOD partnership between NHCC, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, the Air Force's 628th Medical Group and Naval Hospital Beaufort that was established in 2006. The partnership was made possible by the National Defense Authorization Act 2003, Section 721, which authorized the DOD and the VA Health Care Sharing Incentive Fund. The purpose of this Act was to provide funding that allowed various local, regional and national entities to coordinate and share health care resources. The purpose of the alliance is to develop mutually beneficial medical service sharing agreements that improve access to quality and cost-effective health care for all of their beneficiaries. The alliance was recognized as a DOD/VA Joint Venture site in 2012.