Six years after I separated from the Air Force I have finally stepped foot in my local VA hospital. I had a great experience at my VA hospital as soon as I arrived. When people talk about the VA hospitals you get a sense of a gloomy, dark, cold place where you do not want to go to unless you have ran out of choices.
My local VA hospital is located in Northport, N.Y. and when arriving there I quickly learned that people who work there are ready and more than willing to help anyone. My first time arriving there I realized just how large the hospital grounds were as it hosts a large golf course (which I will be hitting up), and a number of buildings for various support.
When I arrived it was a great feeling, as I looked around to figure where I should start my journey I saw Veterans of all type. From the modern Marine in his new fatigues to the retired Vietnam Veteran sporting his Vietnam War hat, it was a great feeling to once again be among members of the military. It’s been quite sometime since I have been back on a military installation and though this not a military base, but a military hospital, I once again began to have those feelings of what it was like being back in.
When I got to the Welcome Center after being helped by a VA worker who I learned had been working for the VA for 37 yrs and was ready to retire, I was greeted by people at the door, ready to answer questions and guide me further into my travels to acquiring my VA benefits card.
As I got to the line where I had to fill out some information and get my picture done for my VA card I saw once again Veterans of many wars standing in line. It was pretty amazing to think that I was standing in line with Veterans from Vietnam, Korea, 1st Gulf war and Veterans of the present war.
When I completed what I had to do to acquire my VA medical card I was directed to go speak to a person in the Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Program Dept. I had told the guy, that yes I was in during this campaign, but I was not deployed to a combat zone. My unit, the 3rd Security Forces squadron didn’t deploy till I separated from the service. He still instructed me to go speak to them, which of course I did.
I had no clue that this existed in the VA Hospital, and when I arrived to this part of the hospital these people greeted me as if I was a hero. The people in this section of the hospital helped me out in an enormous way. They helped set me up with a free physical exam which I will be going to in the next month, gave me packets pertaining to the benefits I do qualify for, and even had me speak to a social worker who took my information and questioned me about any problems physically or mentally.
They had counselors there set to help me with any issues, in the waiting office they had numerous pamphlets, videos and books pertaining to veteran benefits such as information on PTSD, employment, education, transitioning from military to civilian and of course medical benefits.
So far the process for registering in the VA hospitals system has been flawless, I’am very pleased at how well so far I have been treated. It’s t know that the VA hospitals aren’t what many believe they are to be, a place where you do not want to go unless you desperately need to. Something many Vietnam Veterans believe such as my father, because during their time the VA hospitals weren’t nearly as funded as what they are today.
I feel times have changed considerably for us who served, and to not go to your local VA hospital to at least register in their system such as I’m doing, will be a mistake.
For all these people who have lost their jobs due to the economy, I wonder how many are Veterans that now find themselves not able to afford their medical or even losing their medical insurance. Registering with your VA hospital doesn’t have to be your primary source for medical treatment, though it can be used as your secondary backup source of treatment and can become very helpful if someday you were to lose your job and medical insurance.
So come May I will have my first appointment to go to, and I will then write a new blog talking about my experience.
The military has so much out there for us who served, take advantage of it because you never know when it will come in handy in life, especially during hard economic times.
Here is the VA’s own BLOG to keep updated
Here is a list of VA Hospitals