A Sioux Falls VA Health Care System Social Worker shares unique experience from a Sportsman’s show outreach event.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs top priority is to ensure that the best healthcare is provided to eligible Veterans. Outreach is vital to educate Veterans on what services they are eligible for and what the VA can provide for them. The Sioux Falls VA Outreach Program attends many different events each year. These events include meetings at various Veteran organizations and even Sportsmen Shows. A Sportsmen’s Show? Yes, a very unconventional event, but one that many Veterans attend. This type of event provides a lot of direct contact educating and discussing with Veterans the benefits they may be eligible for. Some Veterans find it easier to communicate with staff outside of the hospital setting.
The Outreach Coordinator cannot do all the events, so help is needed. Crystal Wilkinson is the Post 9/11 M2VA Program Manager and assists with the Outreach Programs to connect with Veterans that have served after 9/11 and make sure they are utilizing the VA and the benefits they are eligible for. At a Sportsmen’s Show Crystal noticed a couple standing at a distance showing interest in her table. The woman was encouraging the man to come over. The conversation was started with “Were you ever in the military”? The woman then answered that he was in the military and was really struggling with an issue. Crystal took the Veteran aside and conversed for a substantial amount of time, learning that he had just lost his daughter to a car accident and was having a hard time dealing with it. He had tears in his eyes as they talked, and she knew she was there for a reason that day; to help this Veteran. After listening to him, Crystal suggested he come to the VA for some counseling. He agreed to a follow-up phone call and Crystal was able to set up his appointments. The Veteran was very grateful and mentioned that he was surprised to see the Outreach Team at the Sportsmen’s Show. The Veteran also mentioned that he didn’t know if he would have come for help if he hadn’t seen the VA in a place that was not a hospital setting. He was thankful the VA team was there, his significant other encouraged him to come talk, and Crystal engaged him to open up.
This Veteran is now actively using the VA Health Care System. Outreach is an essential part of helping Veterans navigate their way into our Health Care System.