Veterans | Nashville Public Radio

Veterans

Blake Farmer / WPLN

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been desperate to cut down on the use of powerful pills. So the mammoth agency has taken a sharp turn toward alternative medicine. The thinking goes that even if it doesn’t cure a mental or physical ill, it can't hurt.

Blake Farmer / WPLN

The VA hospitals in Middle Tennessee are again vowing to make improvements after being rated among the 15 lowest performing facilities in the country. The Nashville and Murfreesboro VA hospitals are still dealing with high staff turnover and scheduling problems.

Blake Farmer / WPLN

Veterans in the military town of Clarksville cheered Wednesday as officials opened a long-awaited VA clinic with twice the capacity of the existing facility, which had gotten so overcrowded that — at one point — it could no longer take new patients. And perhaps no one is as excited as George O'Connor.

courtesy Xenex

The VA hospitals in Middle Tennessee have added a new layer of infection control: Waist-high, germ-zapping robots are being deployed throughout the VA, which has become a leader in the health care industry's fight against drug-resistant superbugs.

courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Veterans Affairs hospitals are taking a page from the pharmaceutical playbook — and reversing it. They've hired what are effectively 285 drug company representatives across the country, including one for every VA hospital in Tennessee and Kentucky. But instead of encouraging physicians to prescribe, they're often counseling doctors against giving their patients opioids.

U.S. Department of Energy

What might be the most ambitious health care data analysis to date is happening in East Tennessee.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is working through a massive batch of records from the Department of Veterans Affairs — the records that VA doctors keep on their more than 22 million patients. About a quarter of a million veterans have also donated their genome sequence — basically, their DNA — to the VA, which has been handed over to the national lab.

Courtesy of Montgomery County Veterans Coalition

The governor's hallmark legislation this year — increasing the gas tax — included a late addition: a provision that cuts property taxes for veterans who are fully disabled. The change comes as veterans are mobilizing more in Tennessee politics.

Emily Siner / WPLN

Construction is underway for a new health care clinic for veterans in Clarksville, which is badly needed. The current clinic's space is so tight that closets and bathrooms have been converted into workspaces.

But the VA is saying already that its new facility will be too small to fit the growing number of patients in the area.

Courtesy of Marjorie Eastman

Editor's note: Among the thousands of Americans who decided to join the military after 9/11 was Marjorie Eastman. Now living in Nashville, she recently wrote a book called The Frontline Generation that explores how her time as an Army captain shaped her and how the military has, in some ways, become more progressive than society at large.

As part of our series on identity and culture, Eastman reads an excerpt about a surprising encounter when she was boarding a plane in Texas after returning home from Afghanistan.


Emily Siner / WPLN

In the two years since the veterans affairs wait time scandal, the health care system in Middle Tennessee hasn't improved on the whole, at least according to the wait time metrics set out by the national VA administration.

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