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October 28, 2009 > Serving those who served

Serving those who served

By Alyson Whitaker

Reaching out to veterans is the goal of the Department of Veterans Affairs. In partnership with the City of Fremont and the Tri-City Elder Coalition's Pathways to Positive Aging, these three agencies are coming together on Thursday, November 5 for the first Veteran's Health and Resource Fair.

There are approximately 45,000 military veterans in the Tri-City area. They served in different military agencies including the National Guard and the Reserves, and represent all ages and ethnic groups, male and female. Veterans have sacrificed to serve our country at home or abroad, in times of peace or war.

Many veterans deal with challenges upon completing a tour of duty. Physical injuries can be debilitating. Mental and emotional challenges can be an overwhelming obstacle in returning to civilian life. Securing employment, housing, or other necessities can prove challenging for veterans and those within their care. There is a period of adjustment as they return to their lives out of the service. As a community, it is important to acknowledge their sacrifices and provide services to meet their needs.

The Veteran's Health and Resource Fair is the brainchild of Dr. Ray Grimm in the Human Services Department of the City of Fremont. During a meeting in early September with Niles Veterans Association representative Lindon Turner, the two discussed the increasing need for veteran services. Identifying what is available from various agencies can be challenging. Grimm, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, knows how difficult it can be to meet the needs of service men and women. When he pitched the idea for the Health and Resource Fair to his supervisor, Suzanne Shenfil, he was met with overwhelming enthusiasm and support. Plans have progressed quickly, and response from agencies within the community has been positive.

The mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is to reach out to veterans of all eras and ages, providing them with the services and benefits they deserve and have rightfully earned. The VA has changed tremendously over the years, and recognizes the individual needs of those who have served in the military. By teaming up with dozens of private and public organizations, the hope is that veterans will feel the support of the VA and the community.

At the Health and Resource Fair, several VA representatives will be on-site, reviewing eligibility, enrollment, and helping attendees navigate the path to receiving the appropriate level of benefits. ADOBE Services will have a representative to assist homeless veterans and their families in locating and securing housing. Washington Hospital will have a limited number of flu vaccines, available to veterans and their families at no cost. Kaiser Permanente will be doing free blood pressure screening. Other local and government agencies will assist veterans with employment needs, education, family service options, and aging issues.

Plans are underway to open a 10,000 square foot VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Fremont in January, 2010. The clinic will serve veterans of the East Bay, eliminating the need to go to Livermore or Palo Alto for basic medical and mental health services. This interim clinic will help bridge the healthcare gap until a full-service clinic is operational. The larger, multi-specialty full-service clinic will be opening in an undetermined East Bay location in 2015.

Kerri Childress, a representative from the public relations office of the VA, is excited about teaming up with local community agencies for the upcoming Health and Resource Fair. "Whatever we can do to ease the adjustment to service men and women and their families, we must do. It doesn't matter what conflict they've fought in, they've earned the benefits," says Childress."

The Health and Resource Fair will kick off at 9:15 a.m. with a welcome and introduction ceremony, attended by local officials and dignitaries. A resource overview will follow at 9:30 a.m. Attendees will then be able to visit and meet with the various agency representatives.

This event is a first step in returning a small service in exchange for the great service our veterans have given to us.

Veteran's Health and Resource Fair
Thursday, November 5
9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Niles Veterans Memorial Building
37154 2nd Street, Niles District, Fremont
Information: Dr. Ray Grimm (510) 574-2063

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