James J. Peters VA Medical Center hosts roundtable with Bronx Times

The Bronx Times Reporter’s Patrick Rocchio met with U.S. Army Veteran Gene Laureano of Soundview, who was demonstrating the ReWalk™ Exoskeletal assisted walking program on Monday, August 3. The meeting came after a roundtable discussion with top personnel at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center executive offices.

The Veterans Health Administration is reaching out to local media in an attempt to show all of the positive aspects of an agency that has been under fire the past year.

In a roundtable discussion with the Bronx Times on Monday, August 3, senior officials at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in Kingsbridge Heights highlighted what they feel are innovative approaches to administering health care to veterans from borough and beyond.

They also sought to reassure veterans that they would have adequate access to healthcare at the facility.

On a national level, the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital facilities are seeking to recover after the Obama Administration found in 2014 what it termed chronic failures in access to healthcare, and the media reported on a scandal in Arizona where about 35 veterans died while waiting for treatment at a VA hospital there, according to published reports.

This negative news may have had some impact on morale, but the facility’s leaders continue their work, according to the James J. Peters leadership.

“VA has asked facility leaders in the field to reach out to local media, to discuss their organizations in a way that is meaningful for our veterans and other stakeholders,” said James Connell, a James J. Peter’s VA spokesman, of the roundtable. “In keeping with that request, we are working hard to let folks know that the James J. Peters VA Medical Center is open for business and ready to provide world-class, state-of-the-art healthcare to America’s heroes.”

Dr. Sarah Garrison, the chief of staff at James J. Peters, said that this particular VA location had an initiative regarding access to healthcare about 15 years ago, and said that the facility has always provided good access.

Among the topics discussed were:

• combating veterans homelessness.

• Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, a Section 8 program that includes a social work component.

• ongoing research into infectious disease, traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorders

• efforts to outreach to younger veterans through social media and online interaction.

• a new mammography unit slated to open in the coming months.

• investments in imaging and scanning, including technology that should reduce more invasive procedures.

“We are doing a lot of very innovative things here, and those innovations are only going to improve care,” said Vincent Immiti, associate director for the James J. Peter’s facility, adding that the Bronx location has, in his opinion, a really good team.

Stopping by the meeting with the Bronx Times was Gene Laureano, a U.S. Army veteran from Soundview who was learning to walk again at James J. Peter’s using a newly approved technology called the ReWalk™ Exoskeleton.

He had spent more than a decade in wheelchair, and served as a guard at the Berlin Wall in the 1980s.

According to Connell, the Bronx’s VA location is affiliated with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Columbia University School of Medicine.

He added that the James J. Peter’s VA Medical Care uses state-of-the-art technology.

“We want people who live and work in the community to think of us as a great community resource, and to know that our first and foremost mission is to proudly serve those who have served us, with the best healthcare available anywhere,” said Connell, adding “Some of the best medicine in New York City is right here under this roof.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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