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Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island: A New “Group” In Town

LongIsland.com

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"Promote the health and well-being of veterans and their families through advocacy, and a broad array of services," the mission statement for the Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island ("VHALI"), a new veterans support consortium.

About VHALI

There is no doubt that our veterans population includes individuals, and in some cases their families, that have a variety of health support issues. We who provide veterans support also have no doubt that: there are veterans who will not turn to the (government run) Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA"), preferring to receive assistance from community based services; there are those services just not provided by the VA; there are other organizations that can and do provide the full gamut of health related services to our veteran population, including services that complement those already provided by the VA such as service to the veteran's children, assistance with the transportation, and a centralized list of community resources, and; these other organizations are not necessarily that well known among the veteran population. That's where VHALI comes in.

This consortium includes participation, so far, by: Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling, Family and Children's Association, Hofstra University, Mental Health Association of Nassau County, Mental Health Association of Suffolk County, Nassau County Department of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Developmental Disabilities Services, Nassau County Veterans Service Agency, New Ground - a non-profit independent agency seeking to provide long term housing and case management for homeless veterans who are in recovery, New York State Office of Mental Health Long Island Field Office, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Rosen Center, Peninsula Counseling Center, The Interfaith Nutrition Network, Vietnam Veterans of America #82 Nassau County's Chapter, and Vietnam Veterans of America New York State Council.

Only having had its second meeting, and while having been around for less than six months, it is clear that VHALI has hit the street running. Presently it has identified three areas to immediately pursue, creating three Workgroups with initial suggested tasks.

Outreach Workgroup

Communication with Active Duty / Guard / Reserve Units and Families: link up Readiness Coordinator so presentations on "what to expect" can be given to soldiers and their families by community providers. Providers can also alert the families as to what supports are available to them during the deployment, and, the Marines do an outstanding job of notifying their troops about what services are available when they return home; use the Marines as a "best practice" for the other branches.

Anti-Stigma Campaign: use some of the Nassau County Anti-Stigma Campaign funds to develop materials geared for veterans; develop a CD / Video featuring veterans speaking about getting help with PTSD; use a website to disseminate information, as many young veterans primarily use the internet as a way of communication, and; outreach to College Campuses for younger veterans. (72% of the current Veterans use the GI Bill to go to College).

Advocacy Workgroup

A small group of 3 - 5 providers will attempt to schedule meetings with local congressman to discuss access issues with the VA, and the possibility of subcontracting for services. HR 67 would provide local Veteran Service Agencies with $1 per veteran. These funds could be used to expand services. The measure has passed the House but is stuck in the Senate.

Program And Training Workgroup

There are some "best practice" models in other states regarding veterans health care. (i.e. The "Errera Community" in Connecticut, Vet-to-Vet). These models should be explored and brought to Nassau County. Understand: Combat related PTSD; the different needs of the different generations of veterans; the veterans benefits system; and, other factors impacting health and wellness (e.g., Traumatic Brain Injury, exposure to Agent Orange, Depleted Uranium).

About Veteran Mental Illness and Employment

Many Service Professionals have said that many veterans with psychiatric disabilities are unemployed and/or underemployed even though they say that they want to work. It was the purpose of the authors of a fifteen-brochure series on "Mental Illness and Employment" to provide information and encouragement, to de-mystify the process of going to work, and to help people know what questions to ask and what issues to consider so they can make good work-related decisions for themselves. This brochure series was designed by its authors primarily to be a self-help tool for individuals and small groups. These brochures and a facilitator's guide are being made available for anyone's use at (

http://www.waltsdorsai.net/vetsmentalhealth.htm

).

This Week's Not Commented on Topic - N-E-G-L-E-C-T... Tells me what you think of me!

NEGLECT OF VETERANS UNCONSCIONABLE -- "If the American government and the American people continue to break faith with the young men and women who have sworn to defend them...then we can't be surprised when, if we call on them to serve in the future, no one responds." "To care for him who shall have borne the battle..." Those words, from Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, are quite literally carved into the walls of the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. With that kind of authority for its mission statement, the American people have every reason to expect that the VA and other government agencies would be unswerving in their devotion to the care and well-being of the men and women who have served in the nation's wars, especially those who have been wounded in combat. But with numbing regularity over the past few years, the public has heard tales that demonstrate that America's veterans are being ill-served by many of those whose task it is to help them. Just this week, in Attleboro, a homeless Army reservist, who reportedly served tours of duty in Bosnia and Iraq, was arrested and jailed without bail on charges he broke into a vacant factory building, where he started a small fire, evidently in an effort to stay warm. And as America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq enter their seventh years, the number of homeless veterans is growing. There are 336,000 veterans of all wars in the United States who were homeless at some point in 2006, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. How did America come to fall so far short of its promises to those who volunteered to serve in its armed forces? There are a number of reasons. But the neglect of those who have served their country honorably cannot be excused. If the American government and the American people continue to break faith with the young men and women who have sworn to defend them - and who rightfully expect that the nation will help them when they return wounded in mind or in body - then we can't be surprised when, if we call on them to serve in the future, no one responds.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt