ICHS will make special efforts to reach API veterans with health care who have historically been underrepresented in the Veterans Administration medical facilities. Photo credit: ICHS.

International Community Health Services (ICHS), which operates full-service medical dental clinics in the International District and at Holly Park, recently announced that it has joined the network of providers for military veterans.

“Those in the military and their families deserve the same kind of access to culturally appropriate health care that civilians enjoy,” says ICHS CEO Teresita Batayola. “We’re looking forward to expanding our outreach to veterans and seeing many more of them in the ICHS clinics.”

TRICARE, the health care program serving uniformed service members, retirees and their families, has traditionally delivered its services to veterans in military medical facilities. Now that UnitedHealthcare handles referrals and authorizations for medical treatments of military members and their families, the choices have expanded to include additional providers like ICHS.

In the past, Asian Pacific American veterans have been underrepresented in Veterans Administration (VA) medical facilities despite outreach efforts targeted toward communities of color. Jack Pang, a World War II veteran, attributes the small number of Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs) going to the VA for help, in part, to the smaller number of Asian Americans who’ve chosen the military as a career choice. “In my generation, not a whole lot of Chinese or other Asians felt there was much of a living in going into the military,” he said. Pang is senior commander of the Cathay Post #186 of the American Legion, a Chinese American veterans group based in Seattle.

The number of veterans — across various branches of the U.S. armed forces — may be growing, according to recent reports. For example, in 2013, APIs now comprise 6.5 percent of the active duty naval force, according the Navy News Service.

However, at ICHS — which has provided health care to the API community for 40 years — few veterans have sought out its services. In 2012, ICHS only served 98 veteran patients, totaling less than 1 percent of the total patient population.
Pang, a Shoreline resident, said many veterans tend to gravitate toward the health care facilities closest to where they live because of convenience and a desire to reduce travel costs. He said he currently goes to Northwest Hospital and Medical Center to get his medical treatment.

Batayola hopes that veterans of all generations – including younger veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan – will seek out the services of multilingual, culturally sensitive services offered by ICHS, especially as the agency expands to Bellevue and Shoreline in the next two years.

Pang, for one, is eagerly awaiting the opening of the Shoreline clinic. Construction began earlier this month and is scheduled to be completed by late 2014.
“It’s very close to my house,” he said. “I’ll probably be the first one in line when you open your doors. “

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