2022-2023 National Hospital Ambassador
Spotlight on Veterans Affairs Programs
A quick peek out of my window tells me that spring has arrived! The trees are beginning to bud, while colorful daffodils, tulips and crocus are pushing their way up through the soggy ground. What a welcome and refreshing change this is from the cold, dreary days of winter! For me, it’s just the inspiration I need to get things done–especially concerning VFW Auxiliary matters. With only a three months remaining before the Program Year is over, I encourage all of you to start thinking about the year-end tasks that need to be accomplished. Now, I know I have said this several times, but it’s important: I expect to have nominations for all the National awards from every Department, so please don’t overlook this important duty.
In this blog, I want to touch on a couple programs that are relatively new to the VA.
Compassionate Care Contact Corps
The Compassionate Contact Corps was initiated into the VA in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its purpose at the time was to provide an avenue to interact with veterans who were experiencing loneliness and social isolation due to being confined to their homes during the lockdown. While things are slowly improving, there is still a great need for this type of care.
- The program is carried out virtually, so no there is no travel required. Volunteers are trained to interact with the veteran by making weekly phone or video calls which are usually around 15-60 minutes in duration.
- If possible, the veterans are matched with individuals who have similar interests, especially if they have a military connection. Many of the volunteers are members of veterans service organizations such as ours, making them just the right fit for the program. However, anyone who is has an interest in helping and is accepted into the program can be involved.
- The VA reports that many lives have been saved through these wellness checks, so I encourage you to volunteer for this program. Contact your local VA to see if there is currently a program in place. If there are none in your area, a volunteer may be assigned to a person in another facility.
Veteran Suicide Crisis Line
Spread the word! In July of 2022, a new suicide and crisis line was made available. As VFW Auxiliary members, we can make a difference by letting others know about it, so PLEASE share this information. Per the VA, veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the mostly likely to suffer from PTS due to sustained brain injuries. The war in Iraq began in 2003 and it is distressing that twenty years later, many who served our country are still suffering physical and emotional trauma. The Vietnam war vets, although fewer in number, are also still plagued by the lingering effects of their combat experience. Statistics show that those who returned from either of these wars have double the risk of suicide compared to non-veterans. We may not be able to fix the problem, but we can point them in the right direction for help.
- In January of 2023, the VA announced that any veteran experiencing a suicidal crisis can receive emergency care, at no cost, at either a VA or any other type of health care facility. They can also receive inpatient care for up to thirty days and do not have to be enrolled in the VA to receive these benefits.
- When contacting the Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988, then press 1; 800-273-8255, then press 1. For chat, text 838255. Write down these numbers and keep them handy.
Although the Program Year is winding down, there is still time for many more projects that can be carried out to make our hospitalized veterans smile. Here are a few suggestions:
- March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day. Wear some green or make some green treats.
- April 9 is Easter Sunday. Bring in the bunny, have an Easter egg hunt or even decorate some eggs. Use your creativity!
- May 14 is Mother’s Day. Help patients celebrate this special day.
- May 29 is Memorial Day. A memorial service would be meaningful; sing some patriotic songs and have a moment of silence to remember the significance of the day.
- June 14 is Flag Day. Plan a Flag-raising ceremony; talk about the sacrifice and freedom that our Flag represents. Why not invite some youth groups as well?
The final promotion for the Hospital Program will be sent on April 1, which is just around the corner. It also happens to be April Fool’s Day, so keep your sense of humor if by chance you are fooled!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you do. You truly are amazing! Your kind hearts and loving hands bring comfort, joy and hope to those who are suffering or in need. May God bless all of you!