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Northeast Ohio VA providing health care virtually to hundreds of veterans

Posted at 11:19 AM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 19:13:38-04

CLEVELAND — There are more than 100,000 veterans across Northeast Ohio. Gene Benson is one of them. He served in the Navy and was a paramedic in Cleveland for more than 30 years. Now, he's being cared for by the VA. But, because of social distancing, his care looks a little different.

"It's pretty cool. I like it," Benson said.

Benson, along with 600 other veterans in Northeast Ohio, are receiving virtual home care from the VA using VA Video Connect.

"It's excellent. I'm glad I have it," he said.

Benson and every other veteran receiving the virtual care has a team of five looking after them. That team consists of nurses, a social worker, psychologist, physical and occupational therapist, plus a dietitian. Each team member connects with the vet using a video chat.

Melissa Preston is the social worker for Benson.

“We can be more effective making these calls at home," Preston said.

Preston said the virtual visits help her team see what’s going on inside the patient’s home.

“It’s great to be able to see them, because for somebody like the physical and occupation therapist, we can actually look at the equipment. We can actually show him different exercises he can be doing at home," Preston said. "Dietitians can check to see what’s in his fridge, see the kinds of things he’s been eating. From social work and psychology, it's wonderful. We can do depression screens. We can do social counseling. All these things as if we were in the apartment with him."

The social worker said she believes patients are more comfortable in their own homes and often times share more information.

"They're more willing to tell you what's really going on and you get a better picture, in my mind, of how to help that person," Preston said.

Benson said the virtual care isn't only helping him physically but mentally, too.

“You can get cabin fever here pretty fast so having that outlet is excellent," he said.

Veterans can also take advantage of contracted services through the VA and have their meals and groceries delivered.