Brad Nelson

Veterans living in rural areas should have a slightly easier time getting health care, thanks to a new initiative called the Veterans Choice Card. 

Veterans can use the card to access non-VA health care providers if they live more than 40 miles from a VA health facility, or if they can’t get a desired appointment within 30 days. 

Spokesperson Brad Nelson says the cards are being mailed to everyone enrolled with the Veterans Administration, but not everyone can qualifies to use it. 

Veterans’ health services are not being affected by the government shutdown.  Iron Mountain VA Health Center spokesman Brad Nelson says other aspects of Veterans Affairs may be impacted, but clinics and health services are funded well in advance.

“We already have advance appropriations for 2014, so we’re remaining fully open in that regard.  So we are not impacted by this current lapse in appropriations.”

A spokesperson says The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain has hired nine mental health professionals to meet the demand.

Those hires are part of more than 1,600 new mental health hires within the VA system.

Spokesperson Brad Nelson says four of the new hires are under an Executive Order signed by President Obama to meet the needs of veterans and their families. He says with more than a decade of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need is there.