National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
Veteran Community Partnerships
Sometimes, a Veteran speaking about their experiences—and working toward self-forgiveness—can heal emotional wounds. A Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) initiative is facilitating this process: The Atlanta VA Health Care System Veteran Community Partnership (VCP) collaborates with VITAS Healthcare, a palliative care and hospice services company, to offer healing and hope for Veterans with other than honorable (OTH) discharges.
This collaboration is an effort of We Honor Veterans, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). We Honor Veterans helps care for Veterans at the end of life. VITAS, part of We Honor Veterans, is a partner agency within the Atlanta VCP. VCPs are coalitions that bring community entities together to foster Veterans’ access to care and supportive services at VA and beyond. Each VCP in the United States—there are 41 as of December 2019—is part of the national VCP initiative, a joint project of VHA’s Offices of Community Engagement (OCE), Geriatrics and Extended Care, Rural Health, and Caregiver Support.
If a Veteran has an OTH military discharge, they are ineligible for most VA benefits. This can cause significant obstacles as they approach the end of life. Mr. Larry Robert, bereavement services manager and Veteran liaison for VITAS, is a chaplain who provides supportive counseling to Veterans in this position. VITAS helps Veterans talk through their reasons for OTH military discharges and helps them file a request for a change in their discharge status with the Department of Defense (DOD).
Mr. Robert also helps Veterans understand their benefit options. The most important part of this process, he said, is encouraging Veterans to tell their stories—an OTH discharge may be a result of a Veteran not having the proper supports for a mental health issue, for example.
“They are trying to forgive themselves, and they’re making peace with something that brought them a lot of pain,” said Mr. Robert.
Veterans—even those not in hospice care—and caregivers or loved ones of Veterans should be aware of the process of requesting a change to their discharge status as well as the palliative care services of We Honor Veterans, Mr. Robert added. Veterans should apply for a change in their discharge status and enroll for benefits when they’re well. They should have a Veteran Service Officer work with them on this process. A representative from American Legion or AmVets could also be of assistance to help fill paperwork for a correction of their military record.
Even if their status and record is not changed, Mr. Robert explained, the process of this work is transformative for many Veterans.
“It adds a voice to their pain, it makes it real,” he said. “They’re able to then see their pain and discuss it. In becoming real, it becomes something than can be overcome.”
OCE is proud to support the VCP initiative and partnerships throughout VHA. For more on OCE’s work, please visit: https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/.
Posted April 22, 2020