When thousands of patriotic motorcyclists arrive in the nation’s capital for the annual Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom” over Memorial Day weekend, another wheeled vehicle will be in the mix. A state-of-the-art mobile medical clinic will glide into town on 18 wheels, meant to draw attention to the medical care and health care challenges of military veterans in rural or remote communities — particularly female veterans.
The cause is shared by Rolling Thunder organizers, who have long called for improved benefits for veterans, and continued vigilance about the fate of prisoners of war and those missing in action.
The big “concept vehicle” — outfitted with the same medical and diagnostic tools of a stationary facility — will be situated Sunday on the National Mall not far from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and will be open to curious visitors.
The hospital-grade clinic is a joint project of DMS Health Technology, a health care equipment provider, and TrillaMed, a hospital supply company owned and managed by a trio of combat veterans who served as U.S. Army Airborne Rangers. The two companies have a new mission.
“It’s distressing that so many of our country’s service women and men are not able to find and receive appropriate health care when they return home due to a strained VA health system,” said William Vogel, CEO of North Dakota-based DMS.
The company has outfitted the mobile units to care of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart ailments, or for “population specific” health care needs in urban and rural settings, among American Indians, and for the homeless.
Frank Campanaro, CEO of TrillaMed, prefers to think of himself and his two partners as “vetrepreneurs” who understand what their fellow veterans are up against.
“We serve the war fighter and veterans through the highest quality service and medical products within the health care industry. As veterans, we use the VA health care system ourselves,” Mr. Campanaro said. “Unfortunately, our sister veterans do not have the same level of access to quality of care, so to uphold our promise to never leave a fallen comrade, we continue to fight on behalf of our female soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, along with the Rolling Thunder organization itself, continue to pay keen attention to progress in improving health care for veterans.
“Two years after a Veterans Affairs scandal that revealed patients were dying waiting for health care, veterans continue to endure weeks and even months of delays before they first see a medical provider,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, Idaho Republican.
He cited a new Government Accountability Office report revealing that veterans newly enrolled for health care could wait up to 71 days to see a health care provider.
There’s positive movement on Capitol Hill, however. The Senate last week approved the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, which contains $83 billion in funding — over $3 billion above the fiscal year 2016 level — including increases for veterans’ health care, benefit claims processing, the Board of Veterans Appeals, the VA Inspector General, medical and prosthetic research, and information technology.