The week of February 14 is notable for Valentine’s Day, but there is another observation during this week that has special significance for anyone with a veteran family member receiving medical care.
The National Salute To Veteran Patients happens the week of February 14th and pays tribute to just under 100,000 patients a day that receive medical treatment in VA medical facilities as well as the nine million U.S. veterans who get care every year.
National Salute To Veteran Patients will be observed Sunday, February 9 to Saturday, February 20, 2020.
Purpose Of The National Salute To Veteran Patients
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, this week-long tribute to veteran patients has always been observed the week of Valentine’s Day and is intended to:
- Pay tribute to veterans
- Increase community awareness “of the role of the VA medical center”
- Encourage visits to hospitalized veterans
- To encourage volunteerism with the VA
Where Veteran Patients Get Care
This observation is meant for some nine million veterans getting care in:
- VA medical centers
- VA outpatient clinics
- Those receiving VA domiciliary care
- Veterans in nursing homes
Who Are These Veteran Patients?
The VA official site includes a report of veteran demographic information from 2017 (titled Profile of Veterans 2017) that includes some revealing information about who benefits from VA health care programs and from the efforts of VA volunteers.
Did you know that male veterans (according to the VA report) are less likely to be uninsured than non-veteran men? Or that among vets who do not use VA health care benefits, less than 5% are uninsured? The VA estimates “About 45% of Veteran men and 31% of Veteran women have access to public and private health care insurance.”
The top three states “with the highest percentage” of veterans overall in 2017 were:
And while that does not necessarily translate into those being the states with the largest veteran patient population, it does represent the potential for such. The top three areas with the highest percentage of women veterans?
A History Of The National Salute To Veteran Patients?
Do a Google search on this February military observation and you won’t find much in the way of a history of this event. It’s not a federal holiday and schools don’t close to observe it. But every year the events are scheduled to help bring the VA, patients, and the community closer together.
The National Salute: A Nationwide Event With Local Roots
The VA is a national entity with branches all over the USA and with a reach that extends to military bases overseas. But during the week of February 14th, the focus is on local VA facilities. If you have one in your area, chances are good there are events planned at or near those facilities.
Do you need to locate the nearest VA volunteer opportunity at a VA facility near you? You can also call the VA central number at 1-800-827-1000 to be referred to your closest VA center.
According to the VA official site, your nearest facility should have a VA Voluntary Service representative who can help you learn what is happening in your area if you want to become involved in the week of the Salute. But VA facilities aren’t working in a vacuum. Many veteran-focused organizations create their own drives to participate and contribute.
Who Participates In The National Salute To Veteran Patients?
Many veteran-focused organizations arrange local drives to take part in the Salute. The VA’s own Vantage Point Blog mentions a variety of past events including a National Salute to Veterans Dinner in Saginaw Michigan at the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center. Another past event at the Butler, Pennsylvania VA was a Community Living Center Lunch Date with a Veteran Program.
Non-VA groups who have participated in past Salutes include Soldiers’ Angels, who have local chapters organizing such participation; in the past Soldiers’ Angels chapters in places like the Trinka Davis Veterans Village and VA Clinic in Georgia and the Audie Murphy VA Hospital in Texas.
These events featured direct contact with hospitalized veterans and combined Valentine’s Day observations with the National Salute.
Other non-VA organizations participating in past events include AARP. One of that agency’s National Salute To Veteran Patients Week activities in past years included an outreach in Arkansas that saw local celebrities, politicians, and school groups teaming up to do veteran outreach with Valentines’ cards, letters, and other personal touches.
There are plenty of other organizations that participate from a variety of sectors–too many to name here. But this short list reveals how diverse the participating entities are:
- VFW Auxiliary
- Bob Woodruff Foundation
- Hospital Council of East Central Michigan
- Museum of Military History
- Hospice of the Valley
There are many, many such organizations nation-wide, but don’t forget that you can contact the VA directly to learn of events scheduled at your nearest VA medical center.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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