National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
Veteran Community Partnerships
Author: Dr. Tracy L. Weistreich Nurse Executive, VHA National Center for Healthcare Advancement & Partnerships (HAP)
During his time in the Marine Corps, Alex Yawor, Bronze Star recipient and World War II Veteran, was sent scouting to use his self-taught art skills to draw sketches of islands in the South Pacific. When he returned home, Mr. Yawor used art to provide comfort and support to families of Service members by painting portraits honoring the sacrifices of those who served. He sent the completed portraits, along with a handwritten poem, to the Veterans’ families.
He was sketching his 170th portrait when he had a second stroke at 96 years old.
Mr. Yawor couldn’t return home due to the care he needed after this stroke and his daughter, Sharon Semenko, needed to find the best facility for him
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) previously connected Christina Lonigro, a Veterans initiative specialist for Advocate Health Advisors, to Ms. Semenko to help with the necessary paperwork to obtain aid and attendance after Mr. Yawor’s first stroke. Due to their time working together on his care, Ms. Semenko could place him in a beautiful personal care home following the second stroke.
“After she [Ms. Lonigro] was done working she would come to my house, sit there, and help me fill out all these forms,” Ms. Semenko said. “I don't even know how many visits she made to our home. If it wasn't for the aid and attendance, my dad wouldn't have lived as long as he did.”
The partnership between Advocate Health Advisors and the Pittsburgh Veteran Community Partnership (VCP) connects Veterans, caregivers, and their families to VA and non-VA benefits. Ms. Lonigro also grew up in a military household and understands the military culture, service-connected disabilities, and how to help Veterans access resources.
VCPs are collaborations that bring community leaders and community organizations together with VA medical center programs to help Veterans access health care and supportive services at VA and beyond. Advocate Health Advisors and the Pittsburgh VCP focus on helping Veterans get the benefits they earned through VA and match them with the best Medicare plan. Both the Pittsburgh VCP and Advocate Health Advisors prioritize trauma informed care by extending Veteran-specific mental health educational programs to community health care professionals.
“It becomes part of our mission in the VCP—to be educators, provide support, and have resources available,” Ms. Lonigro said. “This partnership [between Advocate Health Advisors and the Pittsburgh VCP] is building a bridge of resources available to Veterans and creating awareness on the value of working together to provide Veterans with all the benefits they've earned.”
VCP initiative is a collaboration between the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care and National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP) with support from other VHA offices, including Rural Health, Care Management and Social Work, Caregiver Support, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and Center for Development and Civic Engagement. Each VCP addresses the unique needs of Veterans in the communities in which they live, just as it did for Mr. Yawor.
For information about Advocate Health Advisors Veterans Initiative please visit www.advocateforveterans.com.
Learn more about HAP at https://www.va.gov/HEALTHPARTNERSHIPS/index.asp.
Posted January 31, 2022