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Task Force Weighs Options for New Hampshire Veterans' Health Care

Peter Biello
Dr. Jennifer Lee (center) speaks at the VA New Hampshire Vision 2025 Task Force meeting at the Manchester VA on Tuesday, October 31, 2017.

A task force looking at the future of healthcare for military veterans in New Hampshire kicked off the first part of a two-day meeting Tuesday with a look at mental health, surgery, women vets, and a VA culture change. That meeting continued Wednesday with examinations of primary care, rehabilitation, and geriatric and extended care services. 

Most of the options the task force considered during this two-day meeting revolve around a few key questions. Should the Manchester VA be expanded? If so, how? And to what extent should veterans rely on private doctors VA-funded care?
The task force has a lot more researching and discussing to do before those questions get answered.

But interim Manchester VA director Al Montoya says a culture change is underway.

He says figurative walls between departments at the Manchester VA are coming down and employees are beginning to embrace a culture of collaboration, "where there are nurses working with providers working with administrative folks to get the mission done of taking care of our veterans," he says.

Tuesday was Dr. Jennifer Lee's first meeting as co-chair of the task force, which is officially known as the VA New Hampshire Vision 2025 Task Force. She replaced Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith, network director for the VA New England System.

Mayo-Smith helped put together the task force at the behest of VA Secretary David Shulkin, but he was removed from the task force last month by the VA, which cited the need for the panel to "remain independent of his views as it makes recommendations to the Veterans Health Administration on the future of VA health care in New Hampshire."

Mayo-Smith remains as an "advisor" to the task force, which is scheduled to make recommendations by January 2018.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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