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Learn what the PACT Act means for your VA benefits

Director's Message 4/28/23

Dr. Adam Robinson, director V-A-P-I-H-C-S

VAPIHCS Veterans, PACT Act Event VA Pacific Islands Health Care System (VAPIHCS) has been working diligently to register Veterans under the new PACT Act legislation that was passed in August of 2022. .

. If you are already enrolled for VA care, you still want to speak with a benefits counselor about registering under the PACT Act if you have any history of toxic exposure. There are new benefits related to toxic exposure that you may qualify for. If you are not registered for VA care, you want to speak with a benefits counselor about enrolling under the PACT Act. New benefits are available, and you may qualify.

Our next PACT Act event will be held in Maui at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center,  275 West Ka’ahumanu Avenue, vie, Kahului, HI.  On May 12, 2023, Friday, 10 a.m.  – 6 p.m.  and  May 13, 2023, Saturday  10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Diabetes Awareness Month

April is diabetes awareness month. It’s a good time to talk about the illness that is often called “the silent killer.” Diabetes doesn’t necessarily present with symptoms. Most of the time, you will find out that you are at risk when your doctor orders routine bloodwork. The average time that people have untreated Type 2 diabetes is eight years. This can be very dangerous, since untreated diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and other serious problems. Some people are at higher risk than others. If you have a family history of diabetes, you may be at a higher risk to develop the disease yourself. If you were exposed to agent orange or other toxic chemicals during your military service, you may be at a higher risk of developing diabetes. However, anyone can get it. That’s why it’s so important to get your yearly physical and blood work done. Early intervention can prevent you from developing the disease, and VA has treatment options available. You can lower your risk of developing diabetes even if you have a family history of the disease or chemical exposures. It requires lifestyle changes, and VA has programs to help you make them! Our Move Program can help you get motivated to be more active, which is a wonderful way to help prevent Type 2 Diabetes. Our Whole Health Program offers new and interesting options all the time for Tai Chi classes, Yoga, and other exciting ways to move your body. Whole Health also offers healthy recipes and information on choosing foods more carefully. We all know to avoid soda, cake, and candy. However, you might be surprised to learn that things like bread, corn, and rice metabolize into sugar in your body. That can make limiting sugar tricky, but we have dieticians and nutrition counselors that can go over your diet and help you learn what changes would be most helpful for you. Pacific Islanders are at higher risk for this deadly disease, so please don’t wait until it’s too late. Make an appointment today by calling 1-800-214-1306. Talk with your doctor and find out what VA can do to help you make changes that fit into your lifestyle. Although this disease can seem dangerous and frightening, it doesn’t have to feel that way. Talk with your doctor about what VA programs would most benefit you and help keep you healthy!

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

Every year, about 90,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. The usual onset for this disease is in people over 60, so it’s important for older Veterans to be mindful if they develop tremors. Other things can cause tremors, but if you experience any kind of involuntary movement of the limbs, it’s wise to ask your doctor about seeing a movement disorder specialist. This is essential because early interventions can help slow the progression of the disease and give you more good years. It's important to remember that your doctor needs to know about any changes in your health. Tremors or involuntarily movements could be early signs of Parkinson’s Disease, but if you notice any changes in your body, you should always let your doctor know. Sudden changes in weight, vision changes, muscles weakness or extreme fatigue can all be symptoms of disease. With all disease, diagnosis takes time. That’s why it’s critical to report symptoms when they begin. Don’t put it off! If you have symptoms, tell your doctor right away.

Thoughts from Chaplain Richie Charles

At 29,035 feet above sea level, the summit of Mount Everest stands as the highest point on earth. Mount Everest is located between Nepal and Tibet. When you consider the fact that commercial planes typically fly at an altitude between 31,000 and 38,000 feet, the peak of Mount Everest is not far below a plane’s cruising altitude.

The journey up Mount Everest can take about two and a half months. It’s a slow, arduous ascent. But if a person were to skip that journey, and be magically teleported from sea level up to the top of Mount Everest, things would go bad for that person, fast. At its peak, Mount Everest has only a third of the oxygen found at sea level. But climbers have been able to reach the summit and breathe in the otherwise fatal conditions because during their slow journey up the summit, their bodies gradually “acclimatized”. Their very journey up the mountain, prepares them to stand on top of the mountain.  

Like these mountaineers, we all have different professional mountain tops we are working towards. But sometimes it can feel like the progress that we’re making towards our goals is slow. If given the option to just snap our fingers and forgo the journey and skip the toil, disappointments, and trials that inevitably accompanies any worthy pursuit, perhaps we would. But like Everest, our ascent towards our mountain tops contains lessons and experiences that are vital for enabling us to thrive once we finally arrive at our destination. If we’re honest, we can look back and see how the very experiences of our past were critical for making you who you are today.  Don’t despise your journey because you’re not where you want to be yet. It just might be “acclimatizing” and preparing you for the very destination you are working towards.

One Team, One Ohana!

Adam M. Robinson, Jr., MD, MBA, CPE

Director, VA Pacific Islands Health Care System


36th Surgeon General, USN


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