Vietnam Enrollment and Information Day - Northport VA Medical Center
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Northport VA Medical Center

 

Vietnam Enrollment and Information Day

Members of Suffolk and Nassau County Chapters 11 and 82 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Disabled American Veterans, and the Purple Heart Association provide assistance and information to veterans at Vietnam Enrollment and Information Day on April 25 at Northport VAMC’s Pavilion.

Members of Suffolk and Nassau County Chapters 11 and 82 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Disabled American Veterans, and the Purple Heart Association provide assistance and information to veterans at Vietnam Enrollment and Information Day on April 25 at Northport VAMC’s Pavilion.

By Todd Goodman
Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Some 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, 32 Vietnam veterans enrolled in VA health care for the first time during Northport’s 12th Annual Vietnam Enrollment and Information Day on April 25. These enrollment numbers show there are still some Vietnam veterans who may be hesitant to seek VA care, perhaps based on VA experiences decades ago.  

Of the 47 participants, 30 health screenings and 12 Agent Orange exams were performed, in addition to the previously mentioned unique enrollees. “Half of us {Vietnam vets} alive have a debilitating disease related to Agent Orange,” said Rich Kitson, chief of Northport Voluntary Services and president of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) in Suffolk County. “That’s why it’s so important to identify and help these veterans.”

In addition to the medical aspect, workshops on smoking cessation, suicide prevention, tai chi, meditation, and coping with depression were available. Organizations that aid veterans, including Suffolk County’s Veterans Service Agency, the Babylon Vet Center, United Veterans Beacon House, and many more, also participated.  Members of Nassau and Suffolk’s VVA were there to show support and offer assistance regarding medical care and other service-related topics.  

“The biggest thing was that we made contact and gave them an opportunity to connect with fellow veterans,” said Wendy Robertson, community outreach supervisor.  “We’re making a connection and providing these veterans with the benefits they deserve.”


An adaptive sports display also was featured to show veterans different ways to participate in their favorite activities. From kayaks and lie-down bicycles, to laser rifles and adaptive bows, recreation therapy doesn’t want anyone left standing on the sidelines.    

“Participating in adaptive sports gives the veteran a sense of accomplishment,” said Susan Pisano, chief of Recreation Therapy Services. “They socialize with their peers, make a commitment to show up, and work on endurance and physical fitness. We provide multiple programs that available at least weekly.”

Several volunteers who participate in the adaptive sports program spoke to Vietnam veterans about how the program helps with pain management and changes lives. One volunteer—who didn’t want to get out of bed—now enjoys kayaking so much that he bought his own.

“We have a volunteer who basically told them the sports program saved his life,” Pisano said. “He spoke directly to the vets about how they have to get out and change their routines.”

Whether suffering from a physical limitation or the effects of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, the message from Vietnam Enrollment and Information Day is that it’s never too late. Can’t walk a golf course or maintain enough balance to take a swing? Adaptive sports can provide Solo Rider, which is a cart that allows the seat to extend out over the course, so that the veteran can remain seated while striking the golf ball. All of these things are available to the veteran, and now, at least 32 new people can take advantage.

“We like to give patients a stepping stone toward independence,” said Pisano. “We really like it when that happens.”

Anyone interested in participating in adaptive sports first needs a physical clearance consultation from a VA provider. For more information on recreation activities, contact Recreation Therapist Jeff Werkick at (631) 266-4400, ext. 5482, or email him at jeffrey.werlick@va.gov

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