Well today I completed my initial exam at my local VA Hospital and everything was great. I’m not trying to be a spokes person for the VA Hospital, but I will say that the stigma of poor medical care that still looms over the VA Hospitals, is not what I have seen so far. The Department I’m assigned to is the OEF/OIF unit which works specifically with Veterans who have served in the Middle East region whether in peace time or war time.
I started my day by first going to the OEF/OIF to sign in and speak with Scott who is the Patient Program Assistant. After speaking to Scott about where I had to go for my appointments, I was seen by Terri who is my Primary Care Provider. She questioned me on past medical issues and any new issues, got me setup with an appointment with other departments and gave me some great resources and information pertaining to claiming disabilities; if I had any to claim which after 6yrs of being out of the service I had no idea I could still claim. She told me how having stuff documented while I was in the service will help me when and if I had to claim for a disability after I leave the military.
After my checkup with Terri I went to the X-ray, Lab (for blood work) and audiology departments which didn’t take long at all. It took about an hour to finish getting all this work done and the process wasn’t bad at all and while I sat waiting I admired all the other Veterans sitting and waiting too. Almost all of the Veterans I saw wore, Vietnam Veteran, Korean War Veteran or Iraq Veteran campaign hats. Even WWII Veterans were sporting their campaign hats, all were there for different reasons, yet all were there accepting the free care they were receiving that we deserve.
After I had completed all my appointments my final stop was to the vocational office where I spoke to James who is the Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist. It was great sitting down and speaking to James, because once again I was given more resources and information to help me with trying to get a job working with the Veterans Affairs. He helped with giving me advice when applying for government jobs, and since I will be returning to college for my Masters degree, he helped me with advising me on how to go about trying to get an internship working at the VA. James also didn’t hold back telling me some possible reasons why I wasn’t referred for a recent VA position I had applied for, working in the Brooklyn VA Hospital. Our meeting lasted a good 40 minutes and he just gave me a little more advice that will help me to better position myself for a job working in the Veterans Affairs.
After speaking to James I went back to the OEF/OIF department where I had to sign out and then speak to two more people. I had to sit down with Joan who is one of the Social case manager. She went over information in the Welcome Home Returning Combat Service Members packet. She questioned me on any issues i may have pertaining to PTSD, any stress or depression and my overall thoguht just about life and how any other personnel issues that may be bothering me. Again I was given more resources to help me with any social problems I may be having, and clearly made it known that if there is ever a problem I can call her. She made it clear she is here to help and more than willing to help and she even said that speaking to her is also confidential and does not need to be filed in my personel records.
After speaking to Joan I was able to speak to Vanessa who is the Program Manager for the OEF/OIF department. Speaking to Vanessa was great as we spoke about everything from what I’m doing with my website Transitioning veteran, to how she plans and hopes to expand the department. She speak to me about the benefits of coming to the VA Hospital right after separating from the military as we are authorized to receive 6 continuation months under tricare which I did not know. She spoke to me about up and coming seminars, other organizations she’s working with such as The Soldiers Project which I’m a volunteer of and how even just coming to the VA Hospital to initially get put into the system is a great thing. With the packets they give out and information about benefits we can receive as veterans, it makes no sense to not at least come in and put yourself into the system even if you have other medical insurance with another group. I completely agree with her in that they gave me information that I did not know existed and I wished I had done this right after I separated.
So my final thought is this, we have a free resource here given to us for serving in the military so why not use it. The stigma still remains about the VA Hospital, though those that believe in this stigma are usually the ones who have never went to their local VA Hospital. I’m very glad I have gone to the VA and even if I was to accept medical insurance from another organization, I still have gained so much more knowledge about medical benefits that I’m entitled to receive from our government.
Though back in the day around the Vietnam era, VA Hospitals weren’t getting the funding they are getting now from the government. So today is probably the best time to go take a ride and speak to the people in your local VA Hospital to get into the system and find out what benefits you can recieve. It doesn’t hurt even if you already have medical insurance and these people are here to help and are also Veterans like us so they have experience with what we have been through and can relate.
So final words, take a ride to your local VA Hospital and take advantage of the FREE benefits setup for us who served. And what a better time to go, while we sit here in an economic downturn, wondering whether or not we may lose our job and medical coverage.
This pertains to all Veterans of all Wars.
Here is a good article by MSN about the STIGMA I’m talking about
here is a link of the new Budget for the VA