Charlie Bolling, an Army veteran who served during the Korean and Vietnam wars, visits with counseling members at the Vet Center in West Point on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by: Zach Odom/Dispatch Staff
August 20, 2014 10:51:28 AM
WEST POINT -- The Jackson Veteran Mobile Clinic was in the Walmart parking lot Tuesday. It was in town to provide counseling for local combat veterans.
Eighteen local veterans stopped by and registered for assistance from the Vet Center, which offers readjustment counseling service for veterans. The Vet Center also assists veterans in following up on claims and connecting them to available resources for both mental and physical health care.
The Jackson Veteran Center and the G.V. Montgomery VA Medical Center collaborated to form the Mobile Clinic in March.
The goal is to reach 68 counties and parishes in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas by March of 2015.
Vet Center Outreach Program Specialist Don Malin said that West Point is stop 32 in the tour. The Vet Center is a community based outreach clinic, which offers more immediate assistance than general VA health claims.
"Say someone comes in and they're having problems," Malin explained. "They walk in the Vet Center -- we can see them that day or make an appointment for the next day."
He said the Vet Center can also assist veterans in tracking the status of claims they may have with the VA after mental health needs have been addressed. Those in need of immediate counseling can receive care inside the Vet Center's trailer, where a TV and camera are linked to provide "Tele-health" video counseling with the Vet Center in Jackson.
The Vet Center began in 1979. It has 300 offices nationwide and 70 mobile clinics, like the one Malin and his crew brought to West Point from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday.
"It's come out in response to the need," Malin said. "We want to be there where the veterans are."
Malin is not a counselor, but he did serve in the military for 33 years and served most of his career as a chaplain. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knows that treating mental health for veterans is important. He recalls getting home from overseas and thinking thunder booms were mortar shells.
Many of the 18 veterans who stopped by the Mobile Vet Center were met with Charles Tolliver, veteran service officer with Clay County Veterans Affairs Office.
Tolliver is a Vietnam veteran from West Point who said that providing these services was the right thing to do as a retired service member.
"I know what I would have wanted, so why not do it for them?" Tolliver said.
Not all who stopped by were there for mental health needs.
Charlie Bolling of West Point served for more than 26 years in the U.S. Army. He fought in Korea and Vietnam. Bolling, 80, was there to voice his concerns about access to VA health care locally. The only VA hospitals within the state are in Jackson and Biloxi. There are VA hospitals in Memphis and Tuscaloosa, but Bolling has to stay within Mississippi to request home health care. A recent 15-day stay in the hosptial brought up concerns from Bolling and his wife about treatment access.
"I've been involved with the VA healthcare system since 1979. I have no complaints whatsoever. They have been awful good to me," Bolling said. "My concern here is the isolation. There's no VA hospital within a reasonable commuting distance."
There is a community based outpatient clinic in Columbus that those registered with the VA can receive care from, but it is not a full service hospital.
Tolliver said he hopes the mobile clinic will help raise awareness for resources available for veterans.
"A lot of people don't want to reach out. They want it to come to them, so my idea is bring it to them," Tolliver said. "Let it be known that somebody cares. A lot of our veterans don't think anybody cares. Nobody says anything positive to them. There are a lot of positive things."
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