This is a guest opinion column
Today is a day we remember the sacrifice of those who raised their right hands and took an oath to protect our country. It is a day when we recognize those individuals from all walks of life, those who are united as brothers and sisters and who stand together as Americans and One Nation. It is an unbreakable bond forged from sacred bond. Only a few have had the courage to join the highest military ranks in the world and serve a noble commitment. Today we celebrate them. Today is Veterans Day.
On November 11, 1947, the first Veterans Day celebration was held in Birmingham, Alabama. A WWII veteran named Raymond Weeks organized National Veterans Day to include a parade and festivities honoring all veterans, and today it is celebrated across the country. As we participate in the 75th anniversary of the National Veterans Day Parade, we are also broadcasting the parade live to our hospital patients for the first time. It is essential to mention that the Birmingham VA healthcare system will celebrate 70 years of service on March 16, 2023. This milestone would not be possible without our veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.
After nearly 70 years of service, the Birmingham VA is continually making progress to improve veteran care and meet their ever-changing needs. As a recognized senior-friendly healthcare system committed to excellence in care, the Birmingham VA has been ranked #1 in the region for care transition and received a 4-star patient experience rating from the 2022 Hospital Consumer Rating of Medicare Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). patient survey report. We are also grateful to have joined the Department of Veterans Affairs rankings as the fifth best employer in Alabama for Forbes’ list of America’s Top Employers in 2022. These accomplishments show how committed our outstanding staff are to putting the focus on veteran experience, as many of them are veterans.
With the new addition of the PACT Act making historic changes to eligibility and benefits, the VA has expanded health care and benefits for veterans exposed to fireplaces, Agent Orange and other toxic substances. We are currently reaching out to veterans and survivors to make sure they are aware of this new law and what it could mean for them and their families. The Birmingham VA wants every eligible veteran and survivor – everyone – to receive the benefits and care they have earned and deserve. To receive these benefits, Veterans must file a disability claim or apply for VA health care at this link: https://www.va.gov/resources/the-pact-act-and-your-va-benefits/
Together, we continue to focus on VA’s highest clinical priority: suicide prevention. At VA, we are family, and family supports each other through good times and bad. Here at the Birmingham VA, we provide high-end, veteran-specific mental health services. Our new Birmingham East VA clinic offers comprehensive mental health services, including specialist clinics for PTSD, substance use disorders, and psychosocial rehabilitation and recovery. Our staff work diligently with veterans to address all of their mental health needs. Annual VA National Veteran Suicide Prevention Data Reports have shown a decrease in veteran suicides over the past two years. While these reports contain information of positive progress, one veteran suicide is too many, and we still have work to do to further reduce veteran suicide. We are committed to your side, so do not hesitate to contact us. You are not alone in this case. Save the new Veterans Crisis Line number to your phone today: dial 988, then press 1.
Veterans Day may only be one day a year, but here in the Birmingham VA healthcare system, we celebrate our veterans every day. We must remember the sacrifices of all veterans, for they deserve nothing less than our utmost respect and gratitude. To veterans, it is truly an honor to walk among the heroes in our halls and to serve you as you fought to preserve our precious freedom. You have perpetuated the honor and the virtue of those who preceded you; you transmitted these qualities to those who followed your example. Holding the title of veteran is a declaration of dignity, and VA is proud to serve all veterans.
From all of us here in the Birmingham VA healthcare system, we want to thank you for your selfless service that has made this nation so great and a proud beacon of hope around the world.
Dr. Oladipo “Ladi” Kukoyi is executive director of the Birmingham VA Health Care System