CSC Commends VA Groups in Eastern Oklahoma for Expanded Support of Veterans

CSC Commends VA Groups in Eastern Oklahoma for Expanded Support of Veterans

In 2019, the Community Service Council launched the Oklahoma Veteran Alliance (OKVA) as a means to increase pathways and partnerships for veterans and those serving veterans across Oklahoma. As a part of efforts to better connect veteran service providers and enhance communication across the statewide network, in November 2019, OKVA published a special edition newsletter for Veterans Day heralding the recent accomplishments (2018-2019) of the VA Benefits Office – Muskogee and Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System, organizations that both continue to expertly provide, enhance and expand services for Oklahoma veterans.

About the Special Edition E-Newsletter

While we salute our veterans this Veterans Day, Oklahoma Veteran Alliance and the Community Service Council want to also give a great shout out to the progress, successes and national recognition the two VA groups in Eastern Oklahoma have achieved. This special edition newsletter highlights their incredible accomplishments over the past 12-18 months.

VA Benefits Office – Muskogee Highlights

Provided by Jason McClellan, Regional Director, VA Benefits – Muskogee Office

VA Benefits
Staffing has increased by 23% over the past four years as the office has grown from 1,304 employees to the current authorized staffing ceiling of 1,605 employees. Most of this growth is tied to increasing national capacity to support emerging workload demands anticipated from legislation involving Blue Water Navy Veterans and GI Bill Recipients under the Colmery Act.

National Ranking
Muskogee is the largest VA regional Benefits Office with more than 7% of the field staffing resources, and 18% more staffing resources, than the next largest regional benefits office. In terms of performance, Muskogee has a long history of leading the nation in numerous categories and ranking in the top tier of offices regularly across all composite performance metrics.

VA Workforce
27% of VA-Muskogee employees are veterans. Muskogee supports a diverse workforce, which is reflective of the Oklahoma state population, and employs traditionally underrepresented populations at greater rates than the state demographic share, including women (65% vs. 50%), Native Americans (22% vs 7%), and African-Americans (13% vs 7%).

Regional & National Achievements
The VA-Muskogee regional office provides benefits and services for veterans and their dependents worldwide, including disability compensation, GI Bill benefits, and vocational rehabilitation and employment services. In addition to the Muskogee office, there are 7 other Oklahoma locations which support veteran benefits and services, including Altus Air Force Base, Vance Air Force Base, Fort Sill Army Post, Tinker Air Force Base, East Central University, Cameron University, and the Oklahoma City Federal building.

As the 7th largest of 58 sites processing disability compensation claims, Muskogee has, over the past year, completed more than 185,000 medical issue decisions, encompassing more than 41,000 beneficiaries residing in all 50 states and across 40 nations and territories. Muskogee is also one of 11 sites providing focused claims processing for non-rating claims, such as adding a dependent to a veteran’s award, and serves as the VA’s only claims processing site for veterans claiming exposure to Mustard Gas.

Muskogee is VA’s largest processing site for GI Bill benefits and provides benefit payments to more than half of all GI Bill beneficiaries worldwide, processing more than 2.1 million education claims. Muskogee is also home to VA’s only call center for servicing GI Bill beneficiaries. Over the past year, Muskogee has answered more than 2.2 million telephone calls and was recognized as VA’s only call center certified by JD Powers for customer service.

Veteran benefits constitute a major economic stimulus to the state of Oklahoma, as there are 117,359 beneficiaries who receive more than $2.2 billion, annually, in compensation and pension benefits, while $77 million in GI Bill benefits support the educational goals of veterans and dependents.

When accounting for all programs, Muskogee is responsible for more than $8 billion in annual benefits and services to veterans and their dependents worldwide.

Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System Highlights

Provided by Mark Morgan, Health System Director, Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System (EOVAHVS)

Dental Care
The new dental clinic in Tulsa has 12 operatories offering world class dental care to veterans. The new clinic is 4X larger than the previous clinic at TOPC with dedicated dental hygiene chairs and imaging at every station.

Call Center
In summer 2018, we launched a new call center to improve customer service for our veterans which answers more than 2,200 calls per day.

Mental Health
We have focused on expanding mental health residency programs to increase access to care for veterans, expand educational opportunities for mental health providers in Oklahoma, attract more providers to the VA to care for veterans, and expand training opportunities for psychologists and nurse practitioners.

Primary Care
Primary care operating hours at the Ernest Childers Outpatient Clinic in Tulsa expanded in August 2018 to better meet veterans’ needs and increase access to care for working veterans. Hours are now 7 am – 6 pm. The McAlester CBOC will be expanding hours as well in FY20.

Homeless Veteran Stand Down
More than 200 volunteers and 62 community organizations partnered with VA on Sept. 21, 2019 to provide a one-stop, one-stop resource event for homeless veterans and formerly homeless veterans who are receiving housing assistance. Coordinated by the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System Homeless Program, the annual Stand Down for Homeless Veterans provided food, clothing, haircuts, housing and employment resources, VA benefits information, and health screenings to 264 veterans and 26 non-veterans.

New Health Care Center
Ground was broken on the new Ernest Childers VA Health Care Center on April 5, 2019 when VA leadership, congressional and tribal leaders, city officials, and veterans came together to celebrate the new facility at the corner of 91st and Mingo in south Tulsa. Construction is expected to be complete in June 2021.

In October 2018, the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System awarded a contract to SASD Development Group, LLC. to build a new 170,000-square-foot health care center in Tulsa. Once it opens, the facility will replace the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic, Tulsa VA Dental Clinic, Tulsa VA Behavioral Medicine Clinic, and will consolidate all VA outpatient services in Tulsa.
The two-story facility will sit on 22 acres and include 945 parking spaces. Services will include Audiology, Behavioral Health, Dental, Endoscopy, Instrument Sterilization, Processing, and Distribution Center, Laboratory, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Primary Care, Prosthetic and Sensory Aids, Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, Radiology, Specialty Care Clinic and Women’s Clinic.

Potential New Hospital
Communities Helping through Property and Improvement Need for Veterans Act of 2016 (CHIP-IN) – EOVAHCS is being considered as a potential CHIP-IN site for a new VA Medical/ Surgical Hospital in Tulsa. If approved this would make EOVAHCS a two-hospital system with the Jack C. Montgomery Medical Center in Muskogee and a new VA Tulsa Hospital collocated with the OSU Medical Center. There is strong community support and a definite need for acute medical/surgical hospital care in the Tulsa area. The current facility would expand mental health and rehabilitation services to meet the growing demands for those services in Eastern Oklahoma.

Interesting Facts about EOVAHCS
  • EOVAHCS continues to grow. 3.4% growth in unique veterans seen in FY19. 39, 942 veterans received care at an EOVAHCS facility in FY19. 14.5% growth in outpatient care with 518,149 visits in FY19 compared to 452,598 visits in FY17. Care in the community also grew dramatically in support of the Mission Act with 127.4% increase in outpatient care in the community with 227,808 outpatient visits in the community compared to 100,180 during the same time period in FY17.
  • Women veterans – Tremendous growth in care to our women veterans in Oklahoma. 9.1% growth in women veterans seen from FY17 to FY19 with 2, 682 women veterans treated in FY19.
  • Surgery Program growth – EOVAHCS is expanding Ophthalmology services in FY19 and F 20. We are now offering Cataract surgery at the Jack C. Montgomery Medical Center, improving care coordination and decreasing the time to obtain needed procedures.
  • Residency Programs – Expanding physician residency programs for Psychiatry, Internal Medicine and adding Primary Care in FY20. Also looking to expand Surgical Residency programs as well.

National News/Awards/Recognition
  • Secretary and Deputy Secretary Visits to Oklahoma in FY19 – For the first time in decades both the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary visit EOVAHCS facilities to meet with veterans, staff and key stakeholders. Secretary of the VA, the Honorable Robert Wilkie, visited the Jack C. Montgomery Medical Center in November 2018. The Honorable James Byrne, Deputy Secretary of the Veterans Affairs, visited the Ernest Childers Outpatient Clinic in Tulsa in August 2019.
  • EOVAHCS Vascular Surgeons first in VA to perform revolutionary Vascular Procedure – Dr. Mark Randel, Vascular Surgeon, Chief of Surgery, for EOVAHCS along with Dr. Peter Nelson and Dr. Alexandros Mallios of the L’INstitut Mutualiste Montsouris in Paris, France, performed a revolutionary procedure for hemodialysis patients using a new method that uses a device that goes through the skin using ultrasound to create access. The leaves the skin without a scar and the tissue is undisturbed. First VA Hospital in the country to perform this new procedure in collaboration with the University of Oklahoma.
  • Public Affairs – Two EOVHACS Public Affairs staff were recognized at a National VA meeting for their work in the field of Public Affairs. Tiffani Mathews won 1st place for Editorials/Op-Ed/ Columns for her work on Veteran Connection: VA offers Open Studio to Give Veterans a Creative Outlet. Nathan Schaeffer won second place for Employee Newsletters. This is Schaeffer’s second time receiving recognition at the National Level for his work in public affairs and journalism.
  • EOVAHCS Psychology Internship Program Receives Accreditation from the American Psychological Association – Patricia Byrd, Ph.D. and her team received accreditation on contingency during its first year. Due to the recognition, EOVAHCS is now expecting a much larger amount of applications for the 2020 internship year.
  • Chaplain Service / Moral Injury – EOVAHCS Staff Chaplain, was selected to present his work on Moral Injury Programs to the VA National Mental Health and Chaplaincy Dynamic Diffusion Network. Chaplain Carter Check, US Army Veteran, is recognized as an expert in the growing field of Moral Injury and how incorporating spiritual needs into mental health treatment can dramatically improve outcomes for veterans and their families.
  • 100 Top Nurses in Oklahoma – Nine nurses from the EOVAHCS were selected as members of the top 100 nurses across the State of Oklahoma. Nurses from across the state in public, private, state and federal facilities were selected for this distinct honor.
  • EOVAHCS Pharmacist Selected as the Preceptor of the Year – Margaret Richter, EOVAHCS Pharmacist, was selected at the National Chiefs of Pharmacy Leaders Conference for the Preceptor of the Year award. Dr. Richter was voted on by students in the pharmacy residency program for her outstanding leadership and teaching skills. This is the second time Dr. Richter has won this award.


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