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WAAY 31 I-Team Follow-up: Veteran starts private medical treatment in Huntsville

Birmingham's VA Medical Center connected the Army vet with medical attention from a local provider in Huntsville. The VA provides the treatment through its Veterans Choice program.

Posted: Mar 27, 2019 6:13 PM
Updated: Apr 2, 2019 9:09 AM

We have a follow up to the WAAY 31 I-Team investigation that helped a local veteran get the medical help he needs close to home.

After our first report aired last month, the Army vet is now getting pulmonary rehab here in Huntsville instead of driving all the way to the VA Medical Center in Birmingham.

WAAY 31 took a look at how Veterans Choice is changing the former soldier’s life and what’s next for the program.

Inside Huntsville Hospital’s Medical Mall, he always gets a warm welcome. A nurse greeted him, “Tim, Hello! Hello!” Walking through this door in Huntsville is exactly what Tim Medley wanted. “How are you feeling today?” his nurse asked. “Pretty good,” he said.

Minutes from his home, Medley’s getting something vitally important to him: treatment at Huntsville Hospital’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.

Medley reached out to WAAY 31 to see if we could help. “The COPD, I was diagnosed in 2005,” Medley told us in our first report. “But, I had an abscessed lung in 2016. Since then, of course, my COPD has worsened, and it’s difficult.”

Medley suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD. Every breath he takes can feel like a fight. Medley wanted pulmonary rehab in Huntsville through a VA program called Veterans Choice. It allows vets to get medical treatment locally. When Medley turned to WAAY 31 for help, he saw immediate results.

It was news Medley had been waiting a long time to hear. “It’s awesome to be quite honest, Greg, and I appreciate you working to help me accomplish this.”

It took less than 24 hours for the Birmingham VA Medical Center to connect Medley with treatment in Huntsville. Inside Huntsville Hospital’s Medical Mall, he’s already gotten hours of pulmonary rehab. That’s potentially life-changing for people with COPD.

“Unfortunately, there’s no cure for COPD,” Rachel Bland told WAAY 31. “So, our goal with rehab is to prevent or slow down progression and increase the quality of life by building endurance.”

Bland is a registered nurse at Huntsville Hospital. She’s part of the team that keeps a watchful eye over Medley. “Tim has a great attitude,” she said. “He really wants to get better and have a better quality of life.”

“There’s a great team here. Everyone involved, they seem to be about this business: about making people learn how to live with their disease, how to get better with their disease. It’s just a great opportunity for me.”

Opportunities are opening up for other veterans, too. Vets will soon have even more say about whether they’ll receive services at a VA facility or from local providers.

On June 6, the VA is replacing Veterans Choice with the Mission Act, President Trump’s signature policy for veterans. The president’s proposed budget includes up to $3.2 billion in new spending next year for vets to see private doctors.

The VA told WAAY 31 it wants to make sure our nation’s heroes have access to quality medical care close to home.

Bland told us, “It’s always an honor to serve our veterans.” Serving Tim Medley has improved his life. “Tim definitely has more energy,” she said. “He says he’s been sleeping better and a little less shortness of breath.”

“It’s been exciting for me,” Medley said. “I’ve met some great people who do a good job, and they care for me, and it’s just given me a good outlook and good motivation to continue.”

Tim Medley is thankful. “For me personally, it’s a prayer answered. It’s a blessing.“

The VA told WAAY 31 the intent of Veterans Choice and its successor, the Mission Act, is to benefit more veterans and local providers. If you have any questions about taking part, call the Birmingham VA Medical Center at 205-933-8101.

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