COVID-19 Pandemic Has Shifted How Veterans Access Health Care


The coronavirus has hit every class of citizen hard, and on this Veterans Day, we look at how it has affected military service members and veterans.

As of today, there have been more than 4,834 COVID-19 cases in Illinois Veterans Affairs Hospitals, and 545 of those cases remain active, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. There have also been 125 virus-related deaths.

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Meanwhile, the onset of the pandemic seems to have coincided with a rise in suicides among service members.

Veterans are getting impacted in a unique way, said Jennifer Coleman, an assistant clinic director with the Road Home Program at Rush University Medical Center, which focuses on the mental health of veterans. There’s financial issues, then there’s mental health concerns, according to Coleman.

Mental health diagnoses are the third leading cause of service-connected disability, she added.

“We’re all doing social distancing. We’re trying to stay at home and for someone who may be struggling with something like post-traumatic stress disorder, this might really make that worse,” Coleman said. “They’re not able to connect with people, they can’t go out, their loneliness or depression increases.”

On top of this, Coleman said access to mental health care has been a barrier for veterans during the pandemic.

The Road Home Program, along with many of Rush’s operations, have transitioned to online, Coleman said. Now, they’re mainly doing telehealth and virtual visits.

“Any veteran, service member or their family that wants mental health care at no cost can call us up and we can do virtual visits,” said Coleman.

Visit the Road Home Program website or call (312) 942-8387 for more information.


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