For Your Benefit
For and about Hawaii's military

Sunday, October 10, 2004

See also: In The Military

Despite shortage, VA
provides flu shots

Question: Is the VA providing flu shots for registered veterans this year, and is there enough?

Answer: Yes, at the present time. The Pacific Islands Health Care System feels it has an adequate amount.

However, because of the shortage nationwide, each veteran desiring a flu shot will be evaluated to ensure he or she falls into the high-risk categories, such as:

>> Veterans who have chronic diseases and are a high risk for the flu.

>> People who have long-term health problems with heart disease, lung disease, asthma and others.

>> Anyone who comes in close contact with people at risk of serious influenza.

>> Those who are over 65.

Veterans must be registered with the VA to obtain a flu shot and should bring their VA universal access card with them. By law, the VA can only provide a flu shot to veterans.

For more information on when flu shots are available at the VA clinic, call 433-7676. There is no charge for flu shots to VA-registered veterans.

Q: Having served in Vietnam, I am concerned about the level of VA mental health care when our troops return. Is the VA ready for what will probably be increases in mental health needs?

A: VA hospitals and clinics are well aware of possible mental health care increases and are preparing to offer more services for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Steps have been taken to ensure these services are available, including:

>> Requiring 856 VA outpatient clinics have a psychiatrist or psychologist on staff full time.

>> Ensuring that veterans can consult a mental health provider in their community.

>> Elevating the Veterans Health Administration's chief psychiatrist to the agency's national leadership board, a key policy-making group.

>> Establishing uniform funding for mental health care at the agency's 21 health-care networks.

Unfortunately, mental health issues can lead to homelessness as well, and the VA will award grants to states and local communities to provide as many as 10,000 spaces at homeless shelters to veterans.

Veterans seeking care can contact the VA Clinic at 433-0600. For information on disability compensation, call 433-1000.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran,
call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049
or visit the VA Web site at www.va.gov/hawaii
or the Star-Bulletin at 529-4747.

Gregg K. Kakesako, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin,
can be reached by phone at 294-4075
or by e-mail at gkakesako@starbulletin.com.



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