On Saturday, January 11, Hero’s Bridge had the privilege of being one of seven veteran organizations presenting at the first annual American Legion Harold J. Davis Post 247 Veteran’s Information Health Fair. Organized by Navy Veteran and Post Service Officer Will King, who saw a need to provide health information to local veterans. Over forty veterans and their family members attended the event.
Congressional Aide to Robert Wittman Karen Klotz and Bailee Bannon from the Richmond VA Medical Center kicked off the meeting with an announcement that by 2025 there would be a new 400,000 square foot veteran’s medical facility in Fredericksburg that would offer every specialty for eligible veterans. With a large population of veterans, the VA recognizes the need to bring specialty services to the region. This facility will help meet the growing need.
Transportation concerns were addressed by representatives from Richmond. Veterans who meet the eligibility requirements for beneficiary transportation will receive transport. The provider must apply for medical transport. In the absence of a consult being entered into the system, the veteran can still be evaluated for service. In addition, there are a number of private organizations that address veteran transportation needs.
Lauren Winebrenner, Public Affairs specialist with the Martinsburg VA Medical Center shared information on tele-health services that will reduce the travel time required by veterans. “If you have a doctor you like at our facility, you can meet with a technician at another provider and use the tele-health service to remotely speak to a doctor.” Winebrenner light-heartedly called the service “doc in a box”.
Another VA medical center service is the urgent care benefit or Mission Act. If the facility is in-network, a veteran can visit their urgent care facility up to three times a year without paying anything. Visits beyond three may have an associated co-pay. This service also helps reduce the travel time for veterans to receive the care they need.
One request of presenters to those in attendance is to verify that their address on file is updated to ensure communication from the VA about veteran services is received.
Winebrenner shared her personal experience with her VA primary care provider. “The VA will always be there for you and focuses on whole-health.” At a recent visit, Winebrenner spent 90 minutes with her doctor answering questions about her physical, mental and emotional health. As a national entity, if veterans relocate, their new VA facility will have their information and medical records.
Greg Edens from Vet Centers (Readjustment Counseling) a program of the Department of Veterans Affairs shared information about this national organization formed in 1979 in response to the stigma against Vietnam Veterans returning home. “Our returning veterans did not trust the government. Vet Centers was created to address this lack of trust,” said Edens.
Today the program provides free care to anyone who has been deployed. For service men and women suffering from sexual trauma, deployment is not required for service eligibility. “The veterans we meet with do not have to be service connected. This is 100% free for life,” said Edens. Edens closed by thanking the Vietnam Veterans, both in attendance and at-large, for their service and for paving the way for the VA.
Lisa Gregory presented on the services the Virginia Disabled American Veterans (DAV) offers to veterans. “We are here to hep with any assistance veteran needs, from becoming service connected to transportation. The DAV has 39 chapters across the state and assists with emergency relief, employment, homelessness, benefits protections, incarcerated veterans and more.
Anthony Swann, Senior Veteran Peer Specialist from the Virginia Veteran & Family Support Program, presented some the audience with some statistics: “There are 725,000 veterans in Virginia; the 8th state with the largest veteran population. By 2025, Virginia will be 5th. 14% of the veterans in the state are women. Our veterans have a voice and we are listening by putting programs in place to get the information out. We will help any veteran honorably or dishonorably discharged,” he said. “We will even send people into the jails to help veterans who have been incarcerated. Family members are also eligible for services,” Swann continued.
Sarah Fehrer, Vice President of the Boulder Crest retreat shared information about the retreat that offers four cabins for veterans and their families. Boulder Crest is committed to improving the physical, emotional, spiritual, and economic wellbeing of our nation’s military, veterans, first responders, and their family members. Boulder Crest programs ensure that veterans can live lives of passion, purpose, and service at home. 1400 veterans annually make use of their two locations in Arizona and Virginia for rest and relaxation stays. Fehrer encouraged all veterans to reach out to the retreat for more information.
Mary Ann Bowersock and Robert Singer represented the Virginia Workforce Center. They encourage all veterans to reach out and look for jobs where their skills and interests will be used. Veterans from all periods of military service are eligible for job referral, job training and job placement assistance through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC).
Hero’s Bridge had the honor of being the closing speaker for the program. We were proud to share our signature program Battle Buddy, as well as the other programs that we provide for veterans age 65 and older.
The key message of the program is that there are services available for our veterans from any era. Veterans are encouraged to reach out and ask questions about what services are available.