Returning Heroes

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flag 22 Returning HeroesI’m sure you’ve heard on the news that many of our brave men and women are coming home from Iraq.  We welcome them home with gratitude and open arms!

My good friend, Paula, at the VA hospital, keeps me informed on what’s going on at that facility.

Here is a recent news release – in its entirety.

PHOENIX–With the draw down in Iraq, many service members will be returning to the Phoenix area.  VA stands ready to assist.va Returning HeroesVA’s Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) program can provide a multitude of services.  Debbie Dominick LCSW is the current program manager.  “This war and its injuries differ from previous conflicts.  There is an incidence of polytrauma from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).  Thanks to improvements in medical care on the battlefield these service members are surviving wounds they might not have a couple of decades ago. Our Post Deployment Clinic can assess them, help them receive the care they deserve and assist them as they transition back to civilian life,” says Dominick.  Dominick is available for media interviews Aug. 23 and 26.

Memory Loss and Cognitive Thinking Skills can be impaired due to the numerous IEDs which can cause mild or severe brain injury.  Our Speech-Language Pathologist Sally Walsh MS, CC-SLP stands ready to assist.  “Some of our latest technology includes IPod Touches which are used to help track calendar appointments for school and health care, personal reminders, contacts and more.  We can also provide these Veterans with Pulsepulse smart pens to record their writings, and their instructors to help retain information from their classes,” says Walsh. Walsh is available for interviews Aug. 23-27.

Group Therapy can help service members regain a sense of camaraderie they find in their unit deployments.  Special groups for OEF/OIF Veterans have been established at both the VA’s main campus and the SE VA Health Care Clinic in Mesa.  Michael Owens LCSW runs these groups.  “In group settings we can assist these Veterans with their transition back to civilian life, introduce problem solving skills, and assist them in identifying new goals,” says Owens.   Owens is available for interviews Aug. 23-27

VA’s Brain Boosters groups use ordinary computer games puzzles and card games to help returning service members regain memory function after being exposed to effects in the battlefield.  Common effects include post-traumatic stress and sleep deprivation which affects our Veterans cognitive, or thinking, processes. Neuropsychologists Kathleen Goren, Ph.D., and Mary Lu Bushnell, Psy.D, run this program.  “This is a computer generation and VA has an extensive list of games and puzzles to help with memory, concentration and problem solving that can be accessed to help. The fact that the games are fun means Veterans will keep practicing their skills and improving, “says Goren and Bushnell.  Both are available for interviews Aug. 24-27.

Suicide Prevention: As many of the troops return to their homes, they find difficulty in dealing with the transition back to civilian life and unfortunately some turn to suicide as a means of coping.  VA’s Suicide Prevention Program has demonstrated successful results in preventing suicides.  Counselors are available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  Our suicide prevention coordinators can also speak to this topic at any time.

Currently more than 15,000 OEF/OIF Veterans receive their care from the Phoenix VA Health Care System, and 10,000 of these Veterans have served in combat.

Enroll for VA Health Care: Military Veterans who served in combat since Nov. 11, 1998, including Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, must enroll for medical care within five years from returning from the combat area.  The five-year window is also open to activated Reservists and members of the National Guard, if they served in a theater of combat operations after Nov. 11, 1998 and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.

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