Harlingen Veteran Wants New VA Video Conference Program to Solve His Health Issues

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HARLINGEN – A Rio Grande Valley veteran is hoping a new video service offered by the VA will provide him better treatment.

Army veteran Ruben M. Cantu served during the mid to late 1970s carrying rounds of 200-pound projectiles. He says he now lives with the pain it caused him.

Cantu is devoted to veterans in his role as an American Legion commander in Harlingen. He wants to help veterans cope with life after the service in dealing with injuries and emotional problems.

He says he knows what they go through because his years of military service took their toll.

"I lost the hearing, tendonitis, PTSD and I got screws and rods in my back," he explains.

Cantu says he has used VA services in the Valley for treatment on these physical and mental issues since the early 1980s.

But, he says, it is tough at the VA to get the exact treatments he needs. He wants to speak with a different specialist for his various concerns.

He says he doesn't always get to see a specialist and sometimes he doesn't get to see anyone at all.

"We have about three or four doctors, but they work for a while and then they go. And so, we hire nurses and they're sometimes let go,” he explains. “And then we have staff members that are always changing and so, we're confused because one says, 'We're going to address this.’ And then all of the sudden he's gone.”

Cantu believes it would help his treatment for his hearing, PTSD, back and tendonitis if he could have easier access to VA specialists all over the country.

He says he just wants to be able to easily communicate with doctors thousands of miles away if they can alleviate his pain.

"It would be awesome! There's all kind of doctors around the United States and if they could participate or come veterans," says Cantu.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to the VA to see how Cantu can be helped.

Cynthia Hoyler, an Austin medical director with the government agency, says this week the VA rolled out a new user-friendly and expanded video connect communications program.

She says all a veteran has to do is set up an appointment with a VA doctor through their primary care physician, get to their personal computer, set up their video camera and video chat with the specialist online.

A specialist can ask questions over the internet, bring in information on the patient and prescribe the proper treatment from there.

Hoyler says Cantu can sign up for the new program next time he goes to his personal doctor.

"There are a range of specialties that are offered that can connect with the VA Video Connect Program. I would refer to the primary care for the plan of that," says Hoyler.

Hoyler adds the newly expanded program reaches over 4,000 VA providers across the country.

She says someone like Cantu can now set up a video call appointment with a VA specialist during his lunch break.

Hoyler says the Video Connect program is most helpful for people in rural areas of the country. Many of them have had to block off half of their day to drive all the way to the closest VA center for help.

Now, they can get help at home on their computer.


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