The ATLAS (Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations) program premiered its first location in October at VFW Post 6786 in Eureka, Montana. ATLAS is part of VA’s Anywhere to Anywhere initiative and aims to provide access to VA health care for underserved Veterans by providing convenient locations for them to connect to VA providers through video telehealth.
At the ATLAS ribbon-cutting ceremony in Eureka, a remote town seven miles from the Canadian border, North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC spoke with Veterans about how the new ATLAS site at their local VFW Post will save them long and potentially hazardous trips to VA clinics.
While some Veterans go to a VA clinic 65 miles away, the nearest full-service VA Medical Center is a 260-mile drive.
"Sometimes it's nothing but ice-covered road all the way," Vietnam Veteran Bob Davies told WUNC. "And in the spring and summertime it's like running a gauntlet with the deer.”
William “Doc” Schmitz, national commander of the VFW, cut the ribbon on the new site. "This is going to take care of so many Veterans," he told WUNC. "You don't have to be a Legion member or a VFW member to come use this pod. We are the community; we're open to the community. It's a win."
VA provides video telehealth appointments through VA Video Connect, while private-sector organization, Phillips, helped to design and build the private appointment room. This year, ATLAS will roll out additional sites across the country, located inside American Legion posts, VFW Posts, and Walmart clinical services rooms.