WEST VALLEY CITY -- The VA has a new tool in its mission to help Utah veterans get the benefits and care they deserve.
Two out of three Utah veterans don't use the benefits they earned, but the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System thinks a new Mobile Vet Center can help change that.
"When we roll into town, I think they'll know we're here," said Ray Ross with the Vet Center Programs.
The specially outfitted RV will provide counseling and medical checks to vets in Utah and parts of Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.
It also attracts attention. Ross explained, "It has all the bells and whistles and satellite communications systems. I think that's something we didn't anticipate, but we do need attention to get work out to vets."
Counselors can access electronic medical records via satellite. The center can be set up for confidential counseling, emergency medical care and even disaster relief. Ben Webster, a VA readjustment counselor, said, "This provides a neutral location where you can meet and create that clinical atmosphere that makes veterans comfortable to open up."
To draw a military parallel, this is like the Special Forces for the VA. This vehicle goes out and does recon for vets in need, and new veterans keep coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Webster said, "It is a brand new generation with brand new concerns and challenges."
The Western Salt Lake Community-based Outpatient Clinic in West Valley City opened in January to serve as many as 9,000 vets on the west side of the valley and into Tooele County.Andrew Kalinen, with Community Based Outpatient Clinics, said, "We have a saying: ‘You may not think you need us now, but you might need us later,' for our younger vets. As you get older, some of those things that are bothering you, might bother you later in life." It's all part of a $22 million nationwide push by the VA to better reach vets in rural areas.