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Charleston Veterans learning the art of Tai Chi

Veterans learning the benefits of Tai Chi
Veterans learning the art of Tai Chi for health benefits

IN 2018, the Veterans Health Administration implemented a Whole Health System (WHS) of care to assist Veterans in taking charge of their health and well-being.

This approach focuses on what matters to Veterans when it comes to their health care choices.  The program incorporates therapeutic activities into their health care plan, allowing for continued improvements in both physical and mental health for Veteran.

At the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System, one of the most utilized tools is the Tai Chi for Veterans program.  Currently, the Charleston program is one of the largest in the country, with over 400 Veterans enrolled across the Lowcountry.  Tai Chi is a mind-body exercise regime.  The principles of Tai Chi are slow-flowing intentional movements, breathing, awareness, and visualization.  This program is available to all Veterans attempting to improve their health.  The Veteran’s primary care physician can make a referral to Community Care for Veterans struggling with issues related to chronic pain, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mobility, and balance. 

A highlight of this program is the ability for Veterans to participate from the comfort of their own homes.  Veterans attend sessions virtually, working with instructors located throughout the country.   The typical treatment is 30 sessions with the ability to renew the referral for an additionally 30 sessions based on the Veteran’s progress.

“The goal for this program is a better overall outcome with our Veterans wellness goals,” said Shane Hallowell, RHJVHCS Whole Health Program Manager.  “In combining therapeutic options with traditional health care offerings, we are able to provide a comprehensive health care plan that evolves as our Veterans evolve.” 

As interest continues to grow with the Tai Chi program, Veterans are encouraged to speak with their primary care or specialty care providers to learn more about the Whole Health System and the opportunities available.

Louis Hall is a Veteran that has taken advantage of the Tai Chi program.  Hall served in the U.S. Navy from 1968 until 1974, and then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1981.  Hall retired as a Chief Master Sergeant in 2009 from Joint Base Charleston.  Since retirement, Hall has experienced issues with mobility and pain.  After learning about the Tai Chi program, Hall decided to enroll and begin the therapy. 

“Tai Chi sets the tone for the rest of my day,” said Hall. “It helps with my movement and flexibility and relieves much of the daily pains I experience.” 

Hall has seen improvements in his joints and flexibility over the previous three months and credits the program with assisting in giving him back some of the freedom of movement he had in earlier times. 

“I ran marathons and was very active during my time in the Air Force,” said Hall. “As time went on, I lost some of that mobility.  Tai Chi helps me feel like I’m 40, not 72, and I love it.  Tai Chi is a worthwhile program for your mental health and physical well-being”

   For more information on the Whole Health System of Care and the Tai Chi for Veterans Program, Veterans should contact their physician.

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