|March 7, 2013
Veterans Affairs' Stand Down aims to help Native veterans
By Lailani Upham
Boxes upon boxes are sorted through by Kicking Horse Job Corps students to distribute to local military veterans during the annual Veterans Stand Down at the Joe McDonald Health and Athletic Center in Pablo. (Courtesy photo)
PABLO — Nearly 600 hundred military veterans strolled through the doors at the Salish Kootenai College Joe McDonald Athletic Center last month for the annual Department of Veterans Affairs Stand Down, according to Fort Harrison officials.
Stand Downs are a VA effort to provide services to homeless veterans.
They Stand Downs are typically one to three day events that provide services to Veterans.
Booths lined the perimeter of the gym to make available information on local programs and agencies that assist veterans and provide benefits.
Health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as housing, employment and substance abuse treatment were available to name a few.
The main benefit source at last month’s event were military clothes and supplies to support homeless veterans.
The Montana VA Health Care System reports that the event was “a great success” adding that many veterans were added to the healthcare system that had not been registered or aware of the services.
“There were a number of Veterans that were not previously enrolled in the VA and will now be able to receive services through the VA. Some Veterans have also submitted disability claims for benefits through VBA,” stated Terry Casey, Public Affairs Officer for the VA Montana Health Care System.
Volunteers create two piles of rucksacks for Veterans to choose from – Marine style or Army style. (Courtesy photo)
A group of Kicking Horse Job Corps students volunteered to help load and unload equipment and distribute supplies to veterans during the two-day event.
A group of local Boy Scouts helped to unpack boxes and pallets.
“This event takes a great deal of work, from loading and hauling the equipment to unloading the trucks, which takes a lot of volunteers,” Casey stated.
Throughout the event flu shots and diabetes checks were available on-site to veterans from the VA.
Families of veterans also had the option of flu shots and checkups through Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Health.
According to the VA, the first Stand Down was organized in 1988 by a group of Vietnam Veterans in San Diego. Since then, Stand Downs have been used as an effective tool in reaching out to homeless Veterans, reaching more than 200,000 Veterans and their family members between 1994-2000.
The VA offers services for Native Veterans called the “Native Domain.” It is used to expand quality health care services specifically for Native vets.
Information is collected from VA medical facilities across the country to create an online directory to offer a venue of resources and services to Native vets for healing programs and services.
Programs and services at the VA Montana Health Care System at Fort Harrison in Helena offers: sweat lodge, pipe ceremonies, talking circle, drum circle, a traditional healer/practitioner, Telemental Health Clinic, and Tribal Veterans Representatives. For more information contact William “Buck” Richardson, Minority Program Outreach Coordinator, at (406) 439-6331 or 447-7547. Or email at William.Richardson@va.gov.
For information on the Montana Veterans Health Care System visit the website at www.montana.va.gov or call Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.