STARKVILLE — Mississippi State University and the U.S. Office of Veterans Affairs officials came together yesterday to celebrate their partnership, the first in U.S. history according to MSU, to provide specialized campus health services to veterans.
“I think Sonny Montgomery would be very proud today,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “This university is known as being one of the most veteran-friendly universities in the nation, and we’re deeply honored to help bring extended healthcare benefits to our veterans.”
During the ceremony at MSU’s Hunter Henry Center, U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper congratulated the leaders for establishing a new approach to providing veterans’ healthcare. The partnership was finalized in July, and polytrauma services, including mental health services and physical, occupational and speech therapies, began in September.
By serving both local and student veterans at the Starkville campus, MSU and the Jackson-based G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Veterans Administration Medical Center are setting the example for institutions of higher learning around the nation, he said.
“Thank you for being willing to do something that has never been done,” Harper said. “Making sure that veterans’ needs are going to be met makes this an even stronger university.”
Gina Capra, director of the Veterans Health Administration Office of Rural Health, said the MSU-VA partnership will allow Mississippi veterans who live in rural areas to have much more convenient access to the services they need.
“As we march toward Veterans Day (on Tuesday, Nov. 11), we’re going to continue this march to get more veterans more access to more healthcare,” she said. “Mississippi State is in the top percent of veteran-friendly campuses, and my office is most pleased to invest in this collaboration.
“We’re going to continue working together to think about best practices, both statewide and nationally.”
Veterans who receive mental and physical health services at MSU will save time and money, said Jackson VA Medical Center Director Joe Battle. Patients will receive high quality treatments because of the telehealth technology enabling MSU and Jackson VA health professionals to collaborate and communicate electronically.
“We’re going to make sure that our veterans are getting the kind of care that they need,” Battle said. “We’ve got to make sure that those people who have protected our way of life are taken care of for the service and sacrifices they’ve made for our country.”
Harper emphasized that officials from the Jackson VA Medical Center and the campus health-services administrators at G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans are representing their namesake’s tradition appropriately.
Montgomery served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years, 1966-96, and his nickname on Capitol Hill was “Mr. Veteran” in recognition of his 35 years of military service, including active duty in World War II and the Korean War. Also, the 1964 MSU graduate’s efforts to support veterans through legislation led to the Montgomery G.I. Bill.
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