The V-A Healthcare Center in Des Moines has undergone lots of changes in the past few years, with fewer inpatients today than in the past. Director Don Cooper says the institution’s mission is changing.He says they see more than 500 veterans a day, and serve about 21-thousand per year. The Des Moines center is the place vets get services like doctor’s visits, prescriptions and surgery, but Cooper says other care is spread around the state, a system of “integrated services.” The Des Moines health center provides medical and surgical services; in Knoxville vets get psychiatric care and longterm stays, and full service is available at VA clinics in Mason City and Fort Dodge. And the picture of the veteran is changing slightly as time goes by. Iowa veterans are older than the national average, about 62 years old, and women make up five or six percent, whereas a decade ago fewer than 2% were women. Time changes the services Iowa’s veterans get from the healthcare system, too. They treat diseases common to an aging population, and have changed to giving more care on an outpatient basis. Iowa may get more clout from its “Vision,” the Veterans Integrated Service Network or VISN that recently merged with Nebraska’s to form a larger regional service agency for vets’ healthcare.
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