By Maddy VitaleThe Ocean City American Legion Morvay-Miley Post 524 will be the first in the country to offer a medical service that will help members get the care they need with the convenience of it close to home.The new service, telehealth, is part of a Veteran Affairs pilot program and will be available through appointment at the American Legion, 46th Street and West Avenue.A physician’s assistant or nurse from the VA will come to the post to provide check-ups and routine care and the information will be transmitted to the physicians at either the Philadelphia or Wilmington, Delaware VA hospitals. “We are the only American Legion Post in the country to do this,” Tom Tumelty, service officer for Post 524 explained. “You can see the crew on the van, or in a room in the post.” To utilize telehealth, veterans would have to become part of the Veterans Health System. He or she would contact the VA for an appointment. The VA would contact the post and the veteran would go to the post for care.Tumelty, a Navy veteran, said an example of using telehealth would be an appointment for a checkup. All the diagnostics could be transmitted through computer to the doctor at the VA hospital.“All of this is an outgrowth of problems across the country. Veterans weren’t able to get appointments,” Tumelty said.If a veteran couldn’t get a timely appointment in one of the clinics and the veteran wants to stay in the VA system, then telehealth will fill in the gap. Telehealth would not handle cases in which a specialist is needed or matters that require a hospital visit. Veterans who want to take a bus or shuttle to Wilmington for an appointment have to leave from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Northfield early in the morning. And the vet can’t return until the last appointment, often resulting in an entire day lost because of a doctor visit, Tumelty explained.Each month the mobile health van goes to American Legion Post 524. A telehealth professional could provide care in the van or in a room set up in the post.The mobile health van comes to American Legion Post 524 monthly.“Telehealth is a win-win situation,” Tumelty said.It all comes down to giving veterans as much access to medical care as they need, Tumelty said. Tumelty, a retired teacher, spends much of his time helping people file claims for benefits and helps them navigate what can sometimes be a complicated system. He hopes veterans call the VA to set up the appointments for telehealth and since the legion is in a pilot program it is a “wait and see.”“I will be anxious to see it start and see how it works,” Tumelty said. Rob Cozen, a Navy veteran and active member of Post 524, said telehealth has the potential to really broaden healthcare services to veterans.“The telehealth services will extend the parameters and give everything a vet needs,” Cozen said. “The VA is trying to be a complete health system for the veteran. Telehealth keeps a vet in the VA system.”Cozen explained telehealth technology is so simple and there is no “reinvention.” “The pilot project is just taking the telehealth system and applying it to the VA system,” he said.Cozen, a marine surveyor, said Post 524 is proud to be the first to offer this service. He said while all veterans in the health system are part of Veterans Choice, which enables vets to go to VA clinics in Northfield, Vineland and Cape May, there are times when it is difficult to get an appointment. “What the VA is doing and what we are trying to do, is provide all conceivable options for somebody because you don’t want to have a situation where people don’t go to the VA for the health services,” Cozen said. He added, “The mission of the American Legion is to take that guy and their families and say, ‘It will be OK.’ That is why the VA health system is so important. We want to make sure the vets have everything they need and that includes healthcare.”For more information about the America Legion Post 524 visit www.legion524ocnj.org or to learn about telehealth go to www.telehealth.va.gov The American Legion Post 524 headquarters will be the first to provide telehealth to veterans. Ocean City American Legion Morvay-Miley Post 524 members Navy veteran Tom Tumelty (seated) and Navy veteran Rob Cozen talk about the post being the first in the country to offer telehealth through the Veteran Affairs.