Veterans in rural America often have to travel far to get medical care. In northern Michigan, a veteran enrolled in health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs might be required to drive to Saginaw, Detroit or Ann Arbor for a doctor’s visit.
Long wait times are another problem at VA medical centers.
These challenges have inspired a Traverse City veterans group to envision a new system using local hospitals. The goal of Project Cherry Tree is to build that network, which would be part of what it calls a veterans care community. Leaders say the program would also help veterans with housing, education and job opportunities.
David Mikowski, executive director of Project Cherry Tree, says it could be a model for a nationwide system.