SALT LAKE CITY — The American Legion's "System Worth Saving" task force is visiting Utah's VA Medical Center next week as part of an ongoing initiative that gathers data and makes recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress and the president.

"We don't rank facilities. We're just there to learn about programs, best practices and concerns," said Jacob B. Gadd, deputy director for health care for the American Legion's Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division. "It's recon. We're getting out there and finding issues and concerns," he said. "It's not an inspection."

The American Legion began visiting the VA's 152 hospitals in 2003 and was last at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City in 2006.

This year the task force is focusing on the quality of transition care between the military and the VA, treatment for post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries, and mental health efforts to combat suicide.

Visiting all of the VA hospitals helps the task force see patterns and anomalies — "Something that's not working but should, and something that is working but shouldn't," Gadd said.

Both regional and system-wide findings feed into the group's testimony before Congress. A written report summarizing the previous year's findings will be released in September.

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VA Medical Center spokeswoman Jill Atwood said the hospital is looking forward to the task force visit. "We need as many people working together as possible to ensure our veterans are receiving the highest level of care. It is because of organizations like the American Legion that we have been able to make vast improvements in our programs and procedures."

Another area of focus for the Salt Lake facility is its women's clinic. "Currently we have over 3,500 women enrolled in the VA Salt Lake City Healthcare System," Atwood said. "Our women's clinic continues to grow and improve."


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