Veterans – You might be surprised at what you are missing. You and the US Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Many older Veterans never look into their VA Healthcare benefits, believing they are reserved primarily for the most disabled veterans or those with the least amount of money. Please don’t make that mistake.

Talk to your fellow Veterans at the VFW, The Legion or to the VSO at your town hall or senior center. The VSO, your local Veterans Service officer, is an added benefit for Massachusetts Veterans (See article on why you should contact your VSO.)
For a second opinion, seek out Veterans who get their care at the VA. The VA can provide access to an entire Primary Care Team. That team will communicate with each other on a regular basis about YOUR care and how to help you reach your health goals. You can go to the VA and still continue with your community based Primary Care Provider or choose to get all your medical needs from the wide assortment of services available at the VA Boston.

According to the 2012 U.S. Census, there are in excess of 12.4 million Veterans age 65 or older. As Veterans age, the VA is ready to address a variety of issues including your changing health risks. Veterans, like most older Americans, wish to stay in their home independently as long as safely possibly. The VA has resources focused on making this a reality, including:
• Home Based Primary Care, intended for Veterans that have difficulty keeping and maintaining their medical appointments, is a unique benefit that brings the entire Primary care team to your home to provide medical care.
• Telehealth, a great option for Veterans that have cardiac concerns in addition to other medical issues, is a daily monitoring of vital signs through a nurse who keeps in telephone contact with you providing support and guidance if there is a change in your blood pressure, weight or blood sugar.
• Mail order medications
• In home respite and in patient respite.

The VA will pay for attendance at an Adult Day Program with other Veterans in the community contracted by the VA. This gives Veterans socialization opportunities and provides respite for caregivers to attend to their own needs while their loved one is getting care.

The VA also provides glasses, hearing aids, orthotic shoes and medical equipment such as scooters, wheel chairs walker, canes, a life alert button that when pressed calls 911 and possibly a chair lift, if eligible.

The VA has a robust Mental Health clinic for older Veterans. As people retire many look back on their life and make meaning of it or try to resolve things that have been troubling them. The VA has several time limited groups and longer term groups on Brain Health, Insomnia, Acceptance, and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness. These groups are a great way to meet other older Veterans, retired and living at home looking to meet other people and find healthy activities.

The Brockton VA has an awarding winning Creative Arts Studio where participants can take art or music lessons or participate in Yoga.

. You might be surprised at what you are missing. Come and check out your options at the VA Boston Healthcare System.

Submitted by Gayle Clark, LICSW, Geriatric Mental Health Outpatient Clinic, US Dept. of Veterans Affairs, VA Boston Healthcare System. For more information, contact David Hencke, VA Boston Outreach Coordinator, at 857-3364-5934