Nursing & Healthcare News

Veterans Health Campaign

ANA\California initiative aims to raise awareness among civilian nurses

Nurse in blue scrubs listens to patient's heart with a stethoscope.

The ANA\C is partnering with veterans’ health expert Ali Tayyeb, Ph.D., RN, NPD-BC, PHN, on a new campaign to address healthcare for California’s military veterans.

UNIQUE CHALLENGES

According to the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), California is currently home to approximately 1.8 million veterans, and that figure is increasing by about 30,000 each year. That means roughly one in every 21 Californians is a military veteran.

Veterans have an assortment of unique healthcare needs and exposures seldom seen in civilian life. These conditions and risk factors often require specialized care and provider knowledge to treat effectively.

Military veterans may also be at greater risk for unemployment, substance abuse, mental health challenges, and housing insecurity. Those afflictions can take a serious toll. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are about 11,000 homeless veterans in California.

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WHAT ABOUT THE VA?

While the VA Health System has the expertise needed to care for veterans, Tayyeb, himself a Navy veteran, says the idea that the VA handles all their healthcare is “a common misconception.” In fact, he says, “less than half of veterans are actually enrolled within the VA system.”

Eligibility for VA healthcare is complex. Veterans are divided into eight priority groups, based on factors like recency of service, disability status, and income, and not all vets are eligible for benefits.

Unfortunately, Tayyeb says, “The civilian community of health systems are simply ill-prepared to provide veteran-centric care,” lacking the knowledge and experience to recognize and respond to common veterans’ health issues.

NURSES’ PIVOTAL ROLE

The ANA\California Veterans Health Campaign will encompass multiple strategies, including new policies, additional training, and screening tools and other resources for nurses, who the ANA\C says “play a pivotal role in improving the health and wellbeing of California veterans.”

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As Tayyeb explains, “We must be able to care for the immediate needs of the veteran, and also see them holistically as part of a larger system of needs and benefits.”

Although the VA system will still be the best option for many, Tayyeb says, “the civilian community must understand what resources they can refer the veteran to for optimal care through a civilian and VA partnership.”

GETTING INVOLVED

To learn more, see the ANA\California Veteran’s Health Toolbox for Nurses at anacalifornia.org/veterans-health. On the CE page, there are five CE courses available on veterans’ health, including an 84-minute panel discussion, “State of the California Veteran.”

If you’re an ANA\C member and would like to contribute to the Veterans Health Campaign working group, you can get in touch via .


AARON SEVERSON is the associate editor of Working Nurse.


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