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Featured Stories 2021

3rd Quarter

Picture of Felisha CooperFelisha Cooper
Medical Support Assistant
G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center
I CARE value of Integrity

Felisha Cooper had only been on the job as an advanced medical support assistant at VA for a few months when she received a life-changing phone call. A Veteran with dangerously high blood sugar had become disoriented and was calling from the parking lot of G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. As Cooper gave him directions, she noticed that his alertness was deteriorating, and he had begun slurring his words. When he suddenly said he was going to “clear his head and go home,” Cooper calmly explained why he needed to stay. “I was a bit anxious at first, but I knew I had to step into action for the safety of the Veteran. The conversation went from convincing him not to leave to calling out for help,” Cooper said. Cooper remained on the line while her colleagues rushed outside to search. She was able to get information about his car to help the search party locate him. “I heard screaming in the background, and heard they had found the car,” said Cooper. “The Veteran was unresponsive and slumped over the steering wheel.” After being swiftly transported to the emergency department and admitted to the hospital for treatment, the Veteran has since made a full recovery. The daughter of an Army Veteran who worked at VA for more than 30 years, Cooper always knew VA was the place for her too. “I just wanted to return the service to our Veterans,” Cooper said. “Our Veterans have served and protected our country, so we need to make certain that we are willing to serve and protect them.” After caring for her father through his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Cooper vowed that if she ever got a job at VA, she would take care of every Veteran with the same commitment. “The most rewarding thing I find is being able to help Veterans find answers and become advocates for themselves. Sometimes, educating on available programs and various tools gives them more freedom and control over their own health care,” Cooper said.

Picture of Larry HugesLarry Hughes
General Foreman, VA Willamette National Cemetery
I CARE value of Commitment

Larry Hughes’ performance is a notable example of a leader who embodies the ICARE values. He has contributed to a culture of commitment to our nation’s Veterans for 28 years serving in various positions within the National Cemetery Administration (NCA). Mr. Hughes oversees a team of dedicated professionals that work tirelessly and are committed to ensuring Willamette National Cemetery remain a shrine that memorializes our country’s heroes. He invests the same energy with local partners that help Veterans reenter the workforce. Larry is committed to finding organizations that aid local Veterans looking for a way to continue their service through employment as valued members of the Department of Veterans Affairs team. Over the years, he has successfully integrated many Veterans through apprenticeships, cooperative work therapy, and temporary hire opportunities to full-time permanent team members. Mr. Hughes has displayed a steadfast commitment over nearly three decades to the NCA’s mission of honoring Veterans and their eligible family members with final resting places in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our nation. He has successfully accomplished this work due to his commitment to all Veterans. We are honored to have him as a key member of our team.

Picture of Christina AnanthakrishnanChristina Ananthakrishnan
Business Relationship Manager, VA Central Office
I CARE value of Advocacy

Growing up in a small town in Kansas, Christina learned early on what matter most is authenticity, hard work, and knowing yourself. As she says, “In this job you cannot be fake, you have to be authentic, people will gravitate to you because you are honest.” Christina continues to apply these traits everyday in her role as a Business Relationship Manager for the OIT Account Management Office (AMO) in the Veterans Experience Services (VES) account group.

VES advocates for the Veterans Experience Office (VEO) and works to capture and analyze the voices of Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors; build and deliver tangible customer experience tools and products across the VA, deliver easy and effective Veteran experiences through all communication channels; and connect VA and local public/private services in a coordinated support network for Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.

AMO’s number one priority is customer experience and putting advocacy at the forefront is the key to success in achieving this. Christina strives to understand what her VES business partners deem important to be a better advocate for them when seeking out solutions to their challenges.

Much of what Christina does would be considered “behind the scenes,” but a closer look shows it is the glue that holds everything together. One of her key roles has been taking ownership of the Unfunded Requirements (UFR) process for her primary business partner in order to understand what is being purchased, how it effects the Veterans, and where improvements can be made to maximize the return of investment. While this is not glamourous work, it is essential in ensuring OIT strategy and business partner demands provide effective, long-term benefits to the Veterans and families that use those services.

By building a strategic and trusting relationship with her partners in VEO and OIT’s Enterprise Program Management Office, Christina exemplifies the role of Advocacy of the ICARE values. Her work has proven invaluable and allows VA as a whole to better meet the obligations of President Lincoln’s promise, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”

Picture of Alison PefferAlison Peffer
Health Technician, Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center
I CARE value of Respect

One Friday afternoon, an elderly Veteran had completed his eye exam. He and his wife were confused about how to get back to the Administrator on Duty (AOD) desk where they had entered the building. Ms. Peffer called for an escort, but the escort service had already left for the day. Although it was time for her to leave, Ms. Peffer offered to escort the Veteran and his wife and they gratefully accepted her help. One the way to to the AOD desk, the Veteran was doing well with his walker, but the Veteran's wife was struggling a little in her gait. Ms. Peffer offered to get a wheelchair for her, but the Veteran's wife declined. Ms. Peffer offered to stop and wait so the Veteran’s wife could rest. She gratefully accepted. Ms. Peffer continued to escort the Veteran and his wife to the AOD desk, taking her time so the Veteran and his wife would not feel rushed or push themselves too hard physically. Once at the AOD desk, Ms. Peffer discovered that the Veteran and his wife were very concerned that they could not remember where they parked. Ms. Peffer then took the initiative to help the Veteran and his wife cross the street to the parking lot, locate their car, and make sure they got in all right. Ms. Peffer then returned to the Optometry Clinic after her tour of duty had ended. Ms. Petter’s actions showed great respect for the elderly Veteran and her respect extended to his wife as well. Ms. Peffer treated the couple with kindness and patience. This was not the first time Ms. Peffer has escorted a Veteran and significant other when escort was not available. I hope you will consider giving Ms. Peffer the I CARE Award for respect. She truly values the service each Veteran has given for our country, and shows it every day.

Picture of Troy NicelyTroy Nicely
Claims Assistant, Huntington VA Regional Office
I CARE value of Excellence

In Troy’s fifteen years with the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), there have been countless occasions he has demonstrated Excellence and gone above and beyond his job duties, but one stands out in recent memory. In January 2021, Troy was contacted by an employee at another Regional Office and asked to obtain information for a Veteran living overseas. Troy dropped what he was doing to assist, and he was able to satisfy the request quickly. The employee was so impressed with Troy’s knowledge and customer service skills, that they contacted our Director. This is the correspondence we received from an employee from another RO: “I just wanted to reach out to you and let you know you have an awesome group of folks working there in your RO. Recently, I have reached out to Troy Nicely on the Intake Processing Center (IPC) Team there who assisted me with doing some updated military information for an overseas veteran, and he was extremely helpful. He was extremely pleasant to work with and stopped what he was doing to assist me. I just want you to know his knowledge was superb and he demonstrated an awesome ability with respect to our mission of ICARE. Please let his supervisor know of how pleased we are to have counterparts such as this working at the VA.” The Huntington Regional Office has always known that Troy Nicely is an asset to our team and it really meant a lot to have an employee at another station recognize the Excellence we see in Troy every day. We are proud to have Troy as a member of our RO family!

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