VA’s VAntage Point blog has the latest information on hurricane impact to VA facilities and services. For those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, click here. For information on Hurricane Irma, click here.
Beaumont Vet Center offers additional VA services after the storm
Work continues, around the clock, to put the city of Beaumont, Texas, back in operation. It has been over two weeks since Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast. Improving infrastructure is a slow process
The devastation is felt city wide, and the Beaumont Vet Center is reaching out to Veterans, using the Mobile Vet Center (MVC). Following Harvey’s landfall, the MVC, in town from Little Rock, Arkansas, located next to mobile medical units operated by health care professionals, from Texas and Mississippi.
The mobile units support medical services, since the Veteran outpatient clinic in Beaumont cannot be safely operated as a result of the storm. The Mobile Vet Center is on site as well, greeting the hundreds of Veterans there to take advantage of the critical health care.“We are here letting the Veterans know about the readjustment counseling services we offer and make sure they are doing okay,” said Shawna Munson, licensed professional mental health counselor, at the Beaumont Vet Center. “We are trying to connect them to different resources to help them get back on their feet.”
Vet Center staff has personally contacted all 300 Veterans enrolled in Beaumont.
“I’ve had multiple Veterans just very happy to hear someone, they know, on the other end of the conversation,” added Munson. “They are simply thankful that we are checking on them. I’ve had Veterans say how much they appreciated the call.”
The loss experienced in Beaumont is shattering. Hundreds have lost everything, to include, automobiles and homes. So many are starting over, and the Beaumont Vet Center, covering an 11-county area, is finding many Veterans are not aware of the Vet Center and the services they provide.
“This has given us a chance to work side by side the clinic employees and get to know them better, and for them to get to know us,” said Munson. “We are an extension of the VA, and having this opportunity to work a few feet away from the CBOC staff, they understand the Vet Center is another option for Veterans needing counseling, and assistance connecting to outside resources.”
“Pretty much anything they have questions about, we have the resource to connect them,” she said. “Following Harvey, we’ve been working with Veterans to locate different water distribution sites, making sure they are connecting with FEMA, and helping with their applications. We are trying hard to bridge the gap with all outside resources, and get the Veterans connected.”
The Beaumont Vet Center has also provided steady counseling to local Veterans visiting this enhanced site, providing multiple health care services to Veterans. The mobile units and resources made available by the VA ensures continuity of care. Several Veterans and families, have sought counseling while trying to contemplate what has happened.
Veterans Canteen Service provides comfort in Beaumont
The effects of Hurricane Harvey can be felt throughout the Texas Gulf Coast. As a person drives east, to nearby Beaumont, escaping the devastation is impossible.
As Veterans and community members arrive to the Beaumont VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic, they also see a scene of closure. The storm caused extensive water damage to the clinic and it is unsafe for patients and employees. But, care hasn’t stopped. The clinic activated two mobile medical units and more are on the way. Veterans and others from the community arrive seeking health care.
However, during this real-world scene of natural disaster, there is a feeling of normalcy. Nearby, employees from the Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) offer a warm meal. Nothing fancy—a hot breakfast sandwich in the morning, and hamburgers and hotdogs in the afternoon, with coffee and water also available. The VCS also has a vegetarian alternative.
“We are here to provide comfort for the Veteran who has been placed in a crisis situation due to weather or disaster,” said James Vaughan, the VCS chief food specialist from St. Louis, Missouri. “We also assist and provide comfort for the caregivers who are stationed out here. They are very gracious and grateful—they are thankful. We consider it a privilege to come out here and help.”
Established in 1946, the canteen service is most well-known for its stores in VA Medical Centers. The Mobile Canteen, in a parking lot, following a major disaster is a unique, but welcome, sight.
“This is great,” said Terry Smith, a U.S. Air Force Veteran. “It is times like these that bring out the best in people, and sometimes it brings out the worst. I’ve only seen the best, and this is part of the best. They don’t have to do it, and it shows me they are concerned for my wellbeing.”
Others staffing the mobile canteen in Texas come from New York City and West Virginia. “It is an exceptionally, exhilarating, position that we are in to provide service to our veterans,” said Vaughan. “We get more back than we can ever, ever give.”
Munson said, “It takes time to process what has happened. The Vet Center is here even after the storm.”
For the latest on VA’s response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, read more here on VAntage Point.
About the author: Shannon Arledge is a public affairs specialist for the Veterans Health Administration.