Pictured above Army Veteran Scott Fass (left) and Doctor Kristin Forcucci (right).
The words duty, honor, and country have real meaning to Scott Fass and led to his commissioning as a second lieutenant in the United States Army in 1980.
His career was almost cut short two years later when he fell from an armored personnel carrier during a training mission and suffered a severe leg injury. “I was hurt pretty bad,” said Fass. “I had a broken fibula, torn ligaments, and nerve damage. I was just 24 years old and they wanted me to retire,” he recalled.
Through a lengthy rehab process, he was able to remain on active duty. He went on to serve 25 years in numerous active duty and Army Reserve assignments including in the armored cavalry at Fort Hood, Texas, as a chemical officer in Germany, and a program manager at Fort Monmouth, N.J.
After his retirement in 2005, Fass never worried about health care – he had TRICARE and private health insurance through his employer. But over the years, his old leg injury got progressively worse. “I suffered nerve damage in my feet and the pain was so bad some days I could barely walk,” he said.
He decided to drop by the Washington, DC, VA Medical Center to see if they could help. “I didn’t even have an appointment and they still got me in to see a doctor in about ten minutes.” Doctor Kristin Forcucci was able to treat his neuropathic pain.
My VA doctor called me at home – who does that?
Several days after his appointment, Dr. Forcucci called to see how he was doing. “I couldn’t believe she was calling me. I mean, who does that?”
Fass is now walking with minimal discomfort and credits Dr. Forcucci for helping him get back on his feet. He is one of millions of Veterans who are increasingly turning to VA for their health care needs.
Last year, VA completed 58 million appointments – 620,000 more than the previous year.
In recent years, VA ramped up efforts to improve access to care and now offers same-day services for primary care and mental health.
Additionally, Veterans can now directly schedule appointments for mental health, audiology, optometry, podiatry, nutrition, wheelchair, and amputation care clinics without a referral. As a result, today VA is seeing more patients than ever before, more quickly than ever before.
Fass is one of the Veterans who benefited from VA’s improved access to care. After being treated for his nerve pain, he set up appointments for optometry and audiology. He ultimately got new prescription glasses and hi-tech hearing aids with Bluetooth technology.
“I never knew I was eligible for this kind of service and I’d be willing to bet that a lot of Veterans don’t either,” he said.
MISSION Act making VA care better
Under a new law that takes effect June 6, 2019, called the VA MISSION Act, access to VA care is getting better. Under the law, VA is making improvements to its internal care delivery system as well as its community care program, including new community care eligibility criteria, so Veterans can get the care they need, where and when they need it.
The MISSION Act strengthens VA’s ability to deliver trusted, easy to access, high-quality care at VA facilities, virtually through telehealth, and in Veterans’ communities.
For Veterans like Fass, providing greater access to VA care is good news. “I’ve seen lots of different doctors, but I have to tell you, I get the best service from the VA.”
Matt Bristol is a strategic communication specialist for the Office of Enterprise Integration, which orchestrates and leads VA transformation and organizational management capabilities through effective integration of people, processes, technology, and innovation. He is a Gulf War Veteran who served as a radio operator with the United States Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and holds a master’s degree in communication from The Johns Hopkins University – Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.