Reining in PTSD with Equestrian Therapy

A Veteran pats a horse in a stable

Army Veteran Larry Opitz spends some time with his favorite horse, Kris, at Strongwater Farm in Tewksbury, Mass. Photo by Bob Whitaker, Lowell Sun. Used with permission.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course … except, perhaps, when he’s also your therapist.

“Interaction with an animal just makes you feel more relaxed,” said Joe Grimard, a recreational therapist at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass. “You’re connecting with an animal, a living thing and that’s all you’re focused on. You’re no longer focusing on yourself, or your problems.”

Each week, Grimard drives four to six Veterans out to nearby Strongwater Farm, where they get to ride horses for free. Family members of Veterans are also welcome.

“These guys are in the 90-day treatment program at our domiciliary,” said Grimard, a Navy Veteran. “So it’s good for them to get away from the hospital now and then and do something different.

“It’s my job to get these guys back out into the community, doing healthy things,” he added. “They need to know they have alternatives to the lifestyles that landed them in trouble before.”

Just Relax

Grimard said the whole idea is to provide Veterans with relaxing, positive experiences.

“A lot of these guys have anxiety,” he said. “They have traumatic memories, so we want them creating new, pleasant memories to replace the not-so-pleasant ones. This is a peaceful place. When I bring them out here, I don’t tell them I’m taking them to therapy. I just tell them, ‘I’m bringing you out here so you can enjoy life a little.’

“Once they get around a horse, they start to loosen up,” he continued. “You can see them begin to relax. You can see their self-esteem and their confidence building. Gradually you can see them becoming the person they were before all that stuff happened to them.”

Grimard said he’s now seeing an increasing number of younger Veterans — those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — expressing an interest in visiting the horse farm.

“They’re very physical, very enthusiastic,” he said. “They just jump right on the horse without a second thought. It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with posttraumatic stress, addiction or family problems, coming out here is just a fun, cool thing to do.

 I feel like I have a friendship with the staff here at the Bedford VA. Without them, I would have been dead years ago. 
— Larry Opitz

An Apple a Day

“Some of the guys, they’ll come out with a bag of apples,” Grimard said. “They want to feed the horses, so a staff member teaches them how to feed an apple to a horse without losing any fingers. And if they don’t want to ride, they can sit in the sun, or talk to the staff out here. The staff is really friendly. They’ll teach you how to approach your horse, how to brush your horse down, where to stand and where not to stand when you’re near the horse.” (Helpful Hint: never stand behind a horse. Just don’t.)

“Our staff is very accommodating, very low key, very down to earth,” said Patti Lessard, program director at the non-profit, 800-acre horse farm. “We provide the environment and the four-legged partners and the Veterans take it from there. They become one with the animal they’re working with, so in a sense the horse becomes the therapist. All you’re thinking about is grooming your horse, riding your horse, building a relationship with that horse.

“You’re very engaged,” she added, “and you become very clear. The horse is your new buddy, your new partner, another member of your support system. Horses are intelligent, intuitive animals; they have a sixth sense. They can read where you’re at.”

Air Force Veteran Theresa Mickelwait couldn’t agree more.

In The Moment

“Horses, like people, are sentient beings,” Mickelwait noted. “Each one is different; each one has its own personality. The first time we went out to the farm I talked to a horse named Big Red. He was very friendly, but he had no problem invading your body space. He liked to go into your pockets to search for snacks. He was like a hyperactive little kid. He was a handful, but I liked him.”

Mickelwait recently completed her treatment program at the Bedford VA and will soon be working full-time and living in her own apartment in Boston. Recently, she won a scholarship that will enable her to take a writing course at the University of Boston.

The Air Force Veteran said her experience at Strongwater Farm was a memorable step on her road to recovery.

“Riding was the best part for me,” she observed. “I like to ride. I find it relaxing, because I’m focused on my horse. It’s an ‘in-the-moment’ sort of thing. You’re doing nothing but being with that animal.”

“Sometimes I won’t even ride,” said Army Veteran Larry Opitz, another recent graduate of the Bedford VA’s residential treatment program. “Sometimes I just like walking around the barns, or walking through the pastures. It gets you away from everybody. You can do a little soul searching.”

 I grew up raising horses, so I truly understand and appreciate the impact this program has on our Veterans. 
— Christine Croteau, Hospital Director, Bedford VA Medical Center

Getting Back Out Into Life

Opitz said he wasn’t quite sure what to expect on his very first visit to the horse farm. But he soon found out.

“When I went up there, all my anxiety was gone,” he said. “It’s dead quiet, except every now and then you can hear a horse whinny. They’ll whinny when someone’s grooming them, because they love it when you groom them. I’d love it too, if someone was scratching my back.”

Opitz said he still goes out to Strongwater Farm every Wednesday to help out. He said he wants other Veterans recovering at the Bedford VA to experience the same sense of peace he feels when he’s grooming his favorite horse (a big Belgian Quarter Cross named Kris), or walking through a quiet pasture, or simply sitting in the sun, watching other Veterans ride their horses.

“It’s about getting these guys back out into life,” he said. “A lot of these guys haven’t been on a horse…never. But now they tell me they can’t wait to go back. They’re like a bunch of school kids.”

In an effort to pay it forward, Opitz said he hopes to somehow raise the $500,000 Strongwater Farm needs to build a much needed indoor riding arena.

“That way the Veterans can come here year-round, even when it’s raining,” he said.

For more information on how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit www.ptsd.va.gov

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/Reining-In-PTSD-With-Equestrian-Therapy.asp

Be Disaster Aware and Take Action to Prepare

A senior man in a swimming pool smiles

Veterans receiving VA health care need to have an emergency medical check list.

September is National Preparedness Month, the perfect time for all Veterans and their families to join others around the nation by participating in a National PrepareAthon! Day on or around September 30th.

The theme this year is: Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare.

This year, do it! Be ready. And you can learn all about it on the FEMA National Preparedness Month website.

September 2014 marks the eleventh annual National Preparedness Month. VA and FEMA want to help you be ready…for anything and everything. There are great checklists online at Ready.gov. Many Veterans have discovered that their kids and grandkids love having this as a project, for school or just for your family.

Is your family prepared for wildfires, winter storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados or floods?

What if Your Medications Run Out?

If you’re a Veteran receiving VA health care, do you have enough medication if your current supply ran out and you couldn’t get to the drug store or your VA medical center?

Here’s an important checklist:

  • In addition to your prescription medicines: Have you stocked up on other expendable health supplies?
  • Do you have a backup plan for those who need care?
  • Did you remember to keep a list of medications and other important health documents ready to go?
  • Do you have emergency phone numbers at the ready? Doctor? VA hospital? Ambulance?
  • Have you stocked up on plenty of food and water?

Emergency preparedness is no longer the sole concern of earthquake prone Californians and those who live in the middle part of the country known as Tornado Alley.

For Americans, preparedness must now account for man-made disasters as well as natural ones. Knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.

Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as making an emergency supply kit and developing a family communications plan, are the same for both a natural or man-made emergency. Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government.

Knowing what to do during an emergency will make all the difference when seconds count.

People with Disabilities and Other Access Needs

In addition to Ready.gov’s recommended items to include in a basic emergency supply kit, people with disabilities and other access and functional needs may want to read the special section of the Ready.gov website dedicated to people with disabilities.

Now is the time to plan ahead for what you may need to stay safe, healthy, informed, mobile and independent during a disaster. Remember that a disaster may require sheltering-in-place at home or evacuating to an emergency shelter or other form of temporary housing.

As you prepare, consider all the strategies, services, devices, tools and techniques you use to live with a disability on a daily basis. Consider family, neighbors, friends, people who provide services to you, faith-based and community groups. Tell these people where you keep your emergency supplies. Give at least one member of your support network a key to your house or apartment.

If you receive dialysis or other life sustaining medical treatment, identify the location and availability of more than one facility and work with your provider to develop your personal emergency plan. Show others how to operate your wheelchair or other assistive devices.

Keep in mind that during an emergency, you may need to explain to first responders and emergency officials that you need to evacuate and shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, or personal assistance provider so they can provide the support you need to maintain your health, safety and independence.

A tornado tears across a field

Check List for Your Go Kit

Now is the time to plan ahead for what you may need to stay safe and healthy during a disaster. Depending on your needs, items for your Go Kit may include:

  • Extra eyeglasses or hearing aids
  • Battery chargers and extra batteries for battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices
  • Copies of medical prescriptions and doctors’ orders
  • Medical alert tags or bracelets or written descriptions of your disability and support needs
  • Supplies for your service animal
  • Medical insurance cards, Medicare/Medicaid cards, physician contact information, list of your allergies and health history
  • A list of personal contacts, family and friends that you may need to contact in an emergency
  • If possible, extra medicine, oxygen, insulin, catheters, or other medical supplies you use regularly

Important to Make a Plan

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance: How will you contact one another? How will you get back together? What will you do in different situations?

Recommended items to include in a basic emergency supply kit:

  • Water, food, flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Additional items to consider adding to an emergency supply kit:

  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
  • Paper and pencil

Remember, Ready.gov is a vast library of information (in 13 languages!). Check it out! Print it out! Tape it up inside your kitchen cabinets! You never know when you may need it.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/Be-Disaster-Aware-And-Take-Action-To-Prepare.asp

National Golf Tournament for Blind Veterans

A disabled woman sits on the back of a golf cart, preparing to swing a club

Having a visual or physical disability need not be an obstacle to an active, rewarding life.

Close your eyes. Now, try to imagine hitting a golf ball with your driver. Could you?

Dozens of Veterans can and will all this week at the National Veterans TEE Tournament in Iowa City, Iowa.

Eldon Miller has been teeing it up at the tournament since the program began 20 years ago. Miller, an Army Veteran from Kalona, Iowa, was 21 years old in 1974 when he lost his vision after a truckload of ammunition exploded during a training exercise.

“As a Veteran, you really look forward to these events,” Miller says. “They keep you active and keep you motivated.”

TEE stands for Training, Exposure and Experience. Every year, the tournament provides legally blind Veterans an opportunity to develop new skills and strengthen their self-esteem through adaptive golf and bowling. Each year, the event uses a therapeutic format to promote rehabilitation, fellowship and camaraderie among participants.

The four-day clinic consists of the TEE Golf Tournament along with kayaking, horseback riding, and other adaptive sports workshops. Previously a local program, the national event demonstrates that having a visual or physical disability need not be an obstacle to an active, rewarding life.

Community volunteers committed to improving the quality of life for Veterans with disabilities.

From “I can’t” to “I did!”

According to event director Kirt Sickels, “What is so exciting is to watch and see the transformation, hearing such words as, ‘I can’t’ and ‘There’s no way’ change to ‘I did, I will, I must!’ No discouragement here, just advancing the ball, as they say in golf terms, to make that all important next shot!”

The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and is hosted by the Iowa City VA Medical Center with support from community volunteers who are committed to improving the quality of life for Veterans with disabilities.

History of the Tournament

The National Veterans TEE Tournament was the brainchild of several employees of the Iowa City VA Medical Center, along with two visually impaired Veterans from Iowa who were attending the 1993 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. These visionaries got together and named the new event, “The TEE Tournament.”

The first tournament was held in June 1994 in Nauvoo, Illinois, at the Great River Bend Golf Course. At this inaugural event, there were 36 legally blind Veterans from six Midwestern states.

The event was moved to the Iowa City area in 1995 and has been held there ever since. VA endorsed the event in 2008 and it became one of VA’s six national rehabilitation programs for Veterans. Now called the National Veterans TEE Tournament, it has expanded to include not only Veterans who are legally blind, but also amputees, those who use wheelchairs and Veterans with other disabilities.

The expansion became a reality with the establishment of the G.I.V.E Foundation (Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere), a new partnership with the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort, the Iowa contingent of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) and the Iowa City VA Medical Center.

Instructors from the Iowa State PGA and the National Amputee Golf Association provide golf instruction to all of the Veterans at special clinics. Last year, 191 Veterans participated. For Veterans from coast to coast, this event continues to grow in both level of involvement and popularity each year. Check out photos from the TEE Tournament.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/National-Golf-Tournament-For-Blind-Veterans.asp

Support For Vets During Suicide Prevention Month



call center workers consult near a woman taking a call

Help spread the word about VA’s mental health resources. We all have the power to take the first step to reach out and see how they’re doing.










One small act could save the life of a Veteran or Servicemember in crisis. That’s the inspiration behind “The Power of 1″ campaign. The campaign will launch this September during Suicide Prevention Month and is a joint project coordinated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD).


“The campaign emphasizes the effect that just one person, one conversation, or one act can have on the life of a Veteran or Servicemember by offering hope and opening the door to support,” said Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, Interim Under Secretary for Health. “It also is designed to spread the word about VA and DoD mental health resources and suicide prevention efforts.”


A new public service announcement, “The Power of 1,” will reinforce this message by focusing on the small, everyday actions that can play a pivotal role in improving a Veteran’s life. It will be broadcast on television and radio stations nationwide during September.


In addition, a Suicide Prevention Month Web page, VeteransCrisisLine.net/ThePowerof1, offers interactive tools to learn more about the Veterans Crisis Line and how small acts make a difference.


 It takes only a moment to start them down the path to getting the support they need. 


“Sometimes, when we suspect a Veteran or Servicemember in our lives may be going through a crisis, we are unsure how to help, but we all have the power to take the first step to reach out, to find time in our day to talk with the Veterans close to us and see how they’re doing,” said Dr. Caitlin Thompson, Deputy Director of VA’s Suicide Prevention Program. “It takes only a moment, and just one small act can start them down the path to getting the support they need.”


VA will also collaborate with community organizations throughout the month, with specially trained suicide prevention coordinators in 151 VA Medical Centers across the nation spreading the word at local events, sponsoring health fairs and working with DoD to help Veterans and Servicemembers get the support they deserve. In addition, VA will coordinate with local and regional groups—including community partners, Veterans Service Organizations, health care providers and prominent Veteran supporters—to spread the word about VA’s mental health resources.


Together, this network will encourage Veterans and the people in their lives to educate themselves about suicide risk, identify warning signs and learn the steps to take in a time of crisis.


Those steps include contacting the Veterans Crisis Line or using its online chat and text-messaging services for free, confidential support from specially trained and experienced responders.


Veterans, Servicemembers and anyone concerned about them can call the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1), chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or send a text to 838255—even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. All Veterans Crisis Line resources are optimized for mobile devices.


“Taking that first step to connect with someone in crisis can feel daunting, but the Veterans Crisis Line offers support for those concerned about a loved one,” Thompson said. “One call, one chat, or one text can open the door to hope.”


To learn more about the Veterans Crisis Line or to find a local VA suicide prevention coordinator, visit VeteransCrisisLine.net. For more information about VA mental health resources, visit mentalhealth.va.gov.






Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/Support-For-Vets-During-Suicide-Prevention-Month.asp

Quick-Thinking VA Radiology Team Saves a Veteran’s Life

Four health care workers crowd around a computer

Tim Lanigan, Carole Mee (seated), Rebecca Bittner (standing) and Mary Hannah (foreground) teamed up in August to get urgently needed help to an elderly Veteran living alone in a remote rural area.

Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Carole Mee might agree. On Monday morning, August 4, she arrived at work in the radiology department of the VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City, Ore., ready for another day’s work.

She was unaware of the drama awaiting her.

“I was calling my patients, scheduling them for their appointments,” said the radiology technologist. “I called this one gentleman — he’s 84 and lives by himself — and asked him how he was doing today. He said, ‘Not so good — I think I’m having a heart attack.’

“I said, ‘Sir, I think you need to hang up now and call 911!’ He told me he didn’t think he could do that. He seemed confused, and short of breath.”

To make matters worse, 250 miles separated Mee from the elderly Veteran she was trying to help.

“At that point, my co-workers started gathering around my desk,” Mee said. “We all work together in fairly small area, so they could hear what was going on. I put the gentleman on speakerphone, so everyone could hear, and kept talking to him. I needed to find out exactly where he lived so we could get help out to him. But he just wasn’t able to give me any information. He couldn’t tell me his address.”

 I needed to find out exactly where he lived so we could get help out to him. But he just wasn’t able to give me any information. 
— Carole Mee, White City VA

The Good, the Bad and the Worse

Mee said that while she continued talking to the Veteran, she was able to pull up some information on her computer screen.

“My day went from bad to worse,” she said. “There was no street address for him, just a post office box.”

At that point Mee’s co-workers — Radiology Clerk Mary Hannah and Radiology Technologist Tim Lanigan — began making calls to the Veteran’s next of kin.

“He has a sister and a daughter,” said Lanigan, an Army Veteran who served in Iraq. “So we were trying to reach one of them. While we were doing that, Carol stayed on the line with the gentleman, trying to talk with him and reassure him that help was on the way. But he was responding to us less and less. He kept drifting off.”

After a few minutes, Radiology Clerk Mary Hannah was able to make contact with the Veteran’s daughter.

Last House on the Left

“I told her what was happening,” Hannah said. “She told me she lives about 150 miles from her father and that he doesn’t have an actual street address because he lives in a very rural area. No streets. But she was able to give me the name of his county and a description of where he lives: down a long dusty road, in a brown and white house. She said there were a white picket fence out front and an American flag flying in the front yard.”

It wasn’t much to go on, but it was something.

“I called our local 911 here in White City and told the dispatcher what was happening,” said Dr. Rebecca Bittner, chief of radiology at the White City VA. “She connected me directly to the 911 operator in the county where the gentleman lives. Luckily, they knew exactly where his house was, because they’d been out there before.”

While all this was happening, Carol Mee was trying desperately to keep the Veteran on the line with her.

“I just wanted to keep him talking until we could get someone out to him,” she explained. “I asked him about his family, about his time in the service. I was able to keep him on the phone at least 20 minutes, but then the line suddenly went dead. Fortunately, by that time, Dr. Bittner had already contacted the 911 people where he lives, so we knew they were on their way out to him.

“He’s OK now,” she said. “In fact, he has an appointment with us coming up soon, so we’ll get to see him.”

Mee said she learned something very valuable that morning.

“I learned I could never be a 911 operator,” she said, smiling. “I don’t think I could handle the emotion that goes with a job like that.”

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/Quick-Thinking-VA-Radiology-Team-Saves-A-Vets-Life.asp

Quick-Thinking VA Radiology Team Saves a Veteran’s Life

Four health care workers crowd around a computer

Tim Lanigan, Carole Mee (seated), Rebecca Bittner (standing) and Mary Hannah (foreground) teamed up in August to get urgently needed help to an elderly Veteran living alone in a remote rural area.

Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Carole Mee might agree. On Monday morning, August 4, she arrived at work in the radiology department of the VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City, Ore., ready for another day’s work.

She was unaware of the drama awaiting her.

“I was calling my patients, scheduling them for their appointments,” said the radiology technologist. “I called this one gentleman — he’s 84 and lives by himself — and asked him how he was doing today. He said, ‘Not so good — I think I’m having a heart attack.’

“I said, ‘Sir, I think you need to hang up now and call 911!’ He told me he didn’t think he could do that. He seemed confused, and short of breath.”

To make matters worse, 250 miles separated Mee from the elderly Veteran she was trying to help.

“At that point, my co-workers started gathering around my desk,” Mee said. “We all work together in fairly small area, so they could hear what was going on. I put the gentleman on speakerphone, so everyone could hear, and kept talking to him. I needed to find out exactly where he lived so we could get help out to him. But he just wasn’t able to give me any information. He couldn’t tell me his address.”

 I needed to find out exactly where he lived so we could get help out to him. But he just wasn’t able to give me any information. 
— Carole Mee, White City VA

The Good, the Bad and the Worse

Mee said that while she continued talking to the Veteran, she was able to pull up some information on her computer screen.

“My day went from bad to worse,” she said. “There was no street address for him, just a post office box.”

At that point Mee’s co-workers — Radiology Clerk Mary Hannah and Radiology Technologist Tim Lanigan — began making calls to the Veteran’s next of kin.

“He has a sister and a daughter,” said Lanigan, an Army Veteran who served in Iraq. “So we were trying to reach one of them. While we were doing that, Carol stayed on the line with the gentleman, trying to talk with him and reassure him that help was on the way. But he was responding to us less and less. He kept drifting off.”

After a few minutes, Radiology Clerk Mary Hannah was able to make contact with the Veteran’s daughter.

Last House on the Left

“I told her what was happening,” Hannah said. “She told me she lives about 150 miles from her father and that he doesn’t have an actual street address because he lives in a very rural area. No streets. But she was able to give me the name of his county and a description of where he lives: down a long dusty road, in a brown and white house. She said there were a white picket fence out front and an American flag flying in the front yard.”

It wasn’t much to go on, but it was something.

“I called our local 911 here in White City and told the dispatcher what was happening,” said Dr. Rebecca Bittner, chief of radiology at the White City VA. “She connected me directly to the 911 operator in the county where the gentleman lives. Luckily, they knew exactly where his house was, because they’d been out there before.”

While all this was happening, Carol Mee was trying desperately to keep the Veteran on the line with her.

“I just wanted to keep him talking until we could get someone out to him,” she explained. “I asked him about his family, about his time in the service. I was able to keep him on the phone at least 20 minutes, but then the line suddenly went dead. Fortunately, by that time, Dr. Bittner had already contacted the 911 people where he lives, so we knew they were on their way out to him.

“He’s OK now,” she said. “In fact, he has an appointment with us coming up soon, so we’ll get to see him.”

Mee said she learned something very valuable that morning.

“I learned I could never be a 911 operator,” she said, smiling. “I don’t think I could handle the emotion that goes with a job like that.”

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/Quick-Thinking-VA-Radiology-Team-Saves-A-Vets-Life.asp

Quick-Thinking VA Radiology Team Saves a Veteran’s Life

Four health care workers crowd around a computer

Tim Lanigan, Carole Mee (seated), Rebecca Bittner (standing) and Mary Hannah (foreground) teamed up in August to get urgently needed help to an elderly Veteran living alone in a remote rural area.

Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Carole Mee might agree. On Monday morning, August 4, she arrived at work in the radiology department of the VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City, Ore., ready for another day’s work.

She was unaware of the drama awaiting her.

“I was calling my patients, scheduling them for their appointments,” said the radiology technologist. “I called this one gentleman — he’s 84 and lives by himself — and asked him how he was doing today. He said, ‘Not so good — I think I’m having a heart attack.’

“I said, ‘Sir, I think you need to hang up now and call 911!’ He told me he didn’t think he could do that. He seemed confused, and short of breath.”

To make matters worse, 250 miles separated Mee from the elderly Veteran she was trying to help.

“At that point, my co-workers started gathering around my desk,” Mee said. “We all work together in fairly small area, so they could hear what was going on. I put the gentleman on speakerphone, so everyone could hear, and kept talking to him. I needed to find out exactly where he lived so we could get help out to him. But he just wasn’t able to give me any information. He couldn’t tell me his address.”

 I needed to find out exactly where he lived so we could get help out to him. But he just wasn’t able to give me any information. 
— Carole Mee, White City VA

The Good, the Bad and the Worse

Mee said that while she continued talking to the Veteran, she was able to pull up some information on her computer screen.

“My day went from bad to worse,” she said. “There was no street address for him, just a post office box.”

At that point Mee’s co-workers — Radiology Clerk Mary Hannah and Radiology Technologist Tim Lanigan — began making calls to the Veteran’s next of kin.

“He has a sister and a daughter,” said Lanigan, an Army Veteran who served in Iraq. “So we were trying to reach one of them. While we were doing that, Carol stayed on the line with the gentleman, trying to talk with him and reassure him that help was on the way. But he was responding to us less and less. He kept drifting off.”

After a few minutes, Radiology Clerk Mary Hannah was able to make contact with the Veteran’s daughter.

Last House on the Left

“I told her what was happening,” Hannah said. “She told me she lives about 150 miles from her father and that he doesn’t have an actual street address because he lives in a very rural area. No streets. But she was able to give me the name of his county and a description of where he lives: down a long dusty road, in a brown and white house. She said there were a white picket fence out front and an American flag flying in the front yard.”

It wasn’t much to go on, but it was something.

“I called our local 911 here in White City and told the dispatcher what was happening,” said Dr. Rebecca Bittner, chief of radiology at the White City VA. “She connected me directly to the 911 operator in the county where the gentleman lives. Luckily, they knew exactly where his house was, because they’d been out there before.”

While all this was happening, Carol Mee was trying desperately to keep the Veteran on the line with her.

“I just wanted to keep him talking until we could get someone out to him,” she explained. “I asked him about his family, about his time in the service. I was able to keep him on the phone at least 20 minutes, but then the line suddenly went dead. Fortunately, by that time, Dr. Bittner had already contacted the 911 people where he lives, so we knew they were on their way out to him.

“He’s OK now,” she said. “In fact, he has an appointment with us coming up soon, so we’ll get to see him.”

Mee said she learned something very valuable that morning.

“I learned I could never be a 911 operator,” she said, smiling. “I don’t think I could handle the emotion that goes with a job like that.”

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/Quick-Thinking-VA-Radiology-Team-Saves-A-Vets-Life.asp

Quick-Thinking VA Radiology Team Saves a Veteran’s Life

Four health care workers crowd around a computer

Tim Lanigan, Carole Mee (seated), Rebecca Bittner (standing) and Mary Hannah (foreground) teamed up in August to get urgently needed help to an elderly Veteran living alone in a remote rural area.

Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Carole Mee might agree. On Monday morning, August 4, she arrived at work in the radiology department of the VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City, Ore., ready for another day’s work.

She was unaware of the drama awaiting her.

“I was calling my patients, scheduling them for their appointments,” said the radiology technologist. “I called this one gentleman — he’s 84 and lives by himself — and asked him how he was doing today. He said, ‘Not so good — I think I’m having a heart attack.’

“I said, ‘Sir, I think you need to hang up now and call 911!’ He told me he didn’t think he could do that. He seemed confused, and short of breath.”

To make matters worse, 250 miles separated Mee from the elderly Veteran she was trying to help.

“At that point, my co-workers started gathering around my desk,” Mee said. “We all work together in fairly small area, so they could hear what was going on. I put the gentleman on speakerphone, so everyone could hear, and kept talking to him. I needed to find out exactly where he lived so we could get help out to him. But he just wasn’t able to give me any information. He couldn’t tell me his address.”

 I needed to find out exactly where he lived so we could get help out to him. But he just wasn’t able to give me any information. 
— Carole Mee, White City VA

The Good, the Bad and the Worse

Mee said that while she continued talking to the Veteran, she was able to pull up some information on her computer screen.

“My day went from bad to worse,” she said. “There was no street address for him, just a post office box.”

At that point Mee’s co-workers — Radiology Clerk Mary Hannah and Radiology Technologist Tim Lanigan — began making calls to the Veteran’s next of kin.

“He has a sister and a daughter,” said Lanigan, an Army Veteran who served in Iraq. “So we were trying to reach one of them. While we were doing that, Carol stayed on the line with the gentleman, trying to talk with him and reassure him that help was on the way. But he was responding to us less and less. He kept drifting off.”

After a few minutes, Radiology Clerk Mary Hannah was able to make contact with the Veteran’s daughter.

Last House on the Left

“I told her what was happening,” Hannah said. “She told me she lives about 150 miles from her father and that he doesn’t have an actual street address because he lives in a very rural area. No streets. But she was able to give me the name of his county and a description of where he lives: down a long dusty road, in a brown and white house. She said there were a white picket fence out front and an American flag flying in the front yard.”

It wasn’t much to go on, but it was something.

“I called our local 911 here in White City and told the dispatcher what was happening,” said Dr. Rebecca Bittner, chief of radiology at the White City VA. “She connected me directly to the 911 operator in the county where the gentleman lives. Luckily, they knew exactly where his house was, because they’d been out there before.”

While all this was happening, Carol Mee was trying desperately to keep the Veteran on the line with her.

“I just wanted to keep him talking until we could get someone out to him,” she explained. “I asked him about his family, about his time in the service. I was able to keep him on the phone at least 20 minutes, but then the line suddenly went dead. Fortunately, by that time, Dr. Bittner had already contacted the 911 people where he lives, so we knew they were on their way out to him.

“He’s OK now,” she said. “In fact, he has an appointment with us coming up soon, so we’ll get to see him.”

Mee said she learned something very valuable that morning.

“I learned I could never be a 911 operator,” she said, smiling. “I don’t think I could handle the emotion that goes with a job like that.”

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/Quick-Thinking-VA-Radiology-Team-Saves-A-Vets-Life.asp

Quick-Thinking VA Radiology Team Saves a Veteran’s Life

Four health care workers crowd around a computer

Tim Lanigan, Carole Mee (seated), Rebecca Bittner (standing) and Mary Hannah (foreground) teamed up in August to get urgently needed help to an elderly Veteran living alone in a remote rural area.

Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Carole Mee might agree. On Monday morning, August 4, she arrived at work in the radiology department of the VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City, Ore., ready for another day’s work.

She was unaware of the drama awaiting her.

“I was calling my patients, scheduling them for their appointments,” said the radiology technologist. “I called this one gentleman — he’s 84 and lives by himself — and asked him how he was doing today. He said, ‘Not so good — I think I’m having a heart attack.’

“I said, ‘Sir, I think you need to hang up now and call 911!’ He told me he didn’t think he could do that. He seemed confused, and short of breath.”

To make matters worse, 250 miles separated Mee from the elderly Veteran she was trying to help.

“At that point, my co-workers started gathering around my desk,” Mee said. “We all work together in fairly small area, so they could hear what was going on. I put the gentleman on speakerphone, so everyone could hear, and kept talking to him. I needed to find out exactly where he lived so we could get help out to him. But he just wasn’t able to give me any information. He couldn’t tell me his address.”

 I needed to find out exactly where he lived so we could get help out to him. But he just wasn’t able to give me any information. 
— Carole Mee, White City VA

The Good, the Bad and the Worse

Mee said that while she continued talking to the Veteran, she was able to pull up some information on her computer screen.

“My day went from bad to worse,” she said. “There was no street address for him, just a post office box.”

At that point Mee’s co-workers — Radiology Clerk Mary Hannah and Radiology Technologist Tim Lanigan — began making calls to the Veteran’s next of kin.

“He has a sister and a daughter,” said Lanigan, an Army Veteran who served in Iraq. “So we were trying to reach one of them. While we were doing that, Carol stayed on the line with the gentleman, trying to talk with him and reassure him that help was on the way. But he was responding to us less and less. He kept drifting off.”

After a few minutes, Radiology Clerk Mary Hannah was able to make contact with the Veteran’s daughter.

Last House on the Left

“I told her what was happening,” Hannah said. “She told me she lives about 150 miles from her father and that he doesn’t have an actual street address because he lives in a very rural area. No streets. But she was able to give me the name of his county and a description of where he lives: down a long dusty road, in a brown and white house. She said there were a white picket fence out front and an American flag flying in the front yard.”

It wasn’t much to go on, but it was something.

“I called our local 911 here in White City and told the dispatcher what was happening,” said Dr. Rebecca Bittner, chief of radiology at the White City VA. “She connected me directly to the 911 operator in the county where the gentleman lives. Luckily, they knew exactly where his house was, because they’d been out there before.”

While all this was happening, Carol Mee was trying desperately to keep the Veteran on the line with her.

“I just wanted to keep him talking until we could get someone out to him,” she explained. “I asked him about his family, about his time in the service. I was able to keep him on the phone at least 20 minutes, but then the line suddenly went dead. Fortunately, by that time, Dr. Bittner had already contacted the 911 people where he lives, so we knew they were on their way out to him.

“He’s OK now,” she said. “In fact, he has an appointment with us coming up soon, so we’ll get to see him.”

Mee said she learned something very valuable that morning.

“I learned I could never be a 911 operator,” she said, smiling. “I don’t think I could handle the emotion that goes with a job like that.”

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/Quick-Thinking-VA-Radiology-Team-Saves-A-Vets-Life.asp

Two Forms of ID Now Needed to Request VHIC Card

A man hands his ID to a woman at a desk

The new VHIC has additional security features and a different look and feel.

Newly-enrolled Veterans or enrolled Veterans who do not have the legacy Veteran Identification Card (VIC) will need two forms of identification to request the new Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC).

Why Are Two Forms of ID Needed?

VHICs are used to access U.S. military bases and, in some cases, allow access through U.S. airport security. As a result, VA wants to ensure the new VHICs are issued appropriately and to the correct person.

As of August 2014, to ensure your identity, VA has strengthened requirements to receive a new VHIC. Veterans must now provide one form of primary identification and one form of secondary identification when requesting a VHIC.

See the “Acceptable Identification Documents” list below.

Features of the New Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

  • Increased security for your personal information — no personally identifiable information is contained on the magnetic stripe or barcode.
  • Member ID is the unique identifier for the Veteran as established by the Department of Defense (DOD). If Veteran does not have a unique identifier from DOD, the “Member ID” label and information will not be printed on the card.
  • The Plan ID is the unique Health Plan Identifier assigned to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) as established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This number is the same for all VHICs.
  • A salute to your military service — the emblem of your latest branch of service is displayed on your card. Several special awards also will be listed.

The VHIC replaces the legacy Veteran Identification Card (VIC) and is issued only to Veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system.

Purpose of the VHIC

The VHIC is for identification and check-in at VA appointments. It cannot be used as a credit card or an insurance card and it does not authorize or pay for care at non-VA facilities.

Front side of an ID card

 

VHIC Issuance

Getting the new card is easy. In February 2014, VA began issuing the VHIC to newly enrolled Veterans and enrolled Veterans who were not previously issued the legacy VIC but who requested an identification card. VA will automatically mail the VHIC to enrolled Veterans who were previously issued the legacy VIC and will complete these mailings by winter 2014. There is no action required by these Veterans to receive the VHIC. Because of the volume of VHICs that will be mailed, VA asks for your patience during this time.

Enrolled Veterans who were not issued the legacy VIC may contact their local VA medical center Enrollment Coordinator to arrange to have their picture taken for the VHIC, or they can request a VHIC at their next VA health care appointment.

Do We Have Your Correct Address?

Important! Veterans who are already enrolled should ensure the address VA has on file is correct so they can receive their VHIC in a timely manner. To update or to confirm your address with us, call 1-877-222-VETS (8387). You also can view and change your address using the kiosk available at many VA medical facilities. If the post office cannot deliver your VHIC, the card will be returned to VA.

If you are not enrolled with VA for your health care, we encourage you to apply for enrollment online or by calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387). You may also apply for enrollment in person at your local VA medical facility. Once your enrollment is verified, you may have your picture taken at your local VA medical center so that a VHIC can be mailed to you. You also will receive a Veteran Health Benefits Handbook welcoming you to VA.

What to do if you do not receive your new VHIC

If you are a new enrollee and had your picture taken at a VA Medical facility, you should receive your VHIC within 7 to 10 days after you request a VHIC. If you applied for enrollment and have not received confirmation of your enrollment status, we may be missing some required information, such as your military service or financial information. Although we strive to do all we can to ensure we enroll Veterans in a timely manner, this missing information could result in a delay in processing your application for enrollment. If this is the case, we will try to contact you via telephone or mail to get the information we need to complete your enrollment application.

Again, we encourage Veterans who are already enrolled to ensure VA has their correct address on file. If you have moved or have a new address, please be sure VA has it so that you can receive your VHIC in a timely manner.

What to do with your legacy VIC

Until you receive the new, more secure VHIC, you are encouraged to safeguard your legacy VIC, just like you would a credit card, to prevent unauthorized access to your identity information. Once the VHIC is received, destroy your legacy VIC by cutting it up or shredding it.

If your VHIC is lost or stolen, you should contact your local VA Medical Facility to determine the nearest facility where you can get a new photo taken for a new card, or call us at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

Acceptable Identification Documents

The legacy VICs and VHICs are acceptable forms of primary identification. Note that two forms of ID are now required, which means that the Veteran must have at least one primary and one secondary form of identification to receive a VHIC.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/Two-Forms-Of-ID-Now-Needed-To-Request-VHIC-Card.asp


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