Town hall hosted to honor area Veterans, give updates

Salem VA Medical Center Director Rebecca Stackhouse speaking about Veterans as Nurse Executive Pam McAnally and Deputy Chief of Staff Herimone Chappell look on. 

Shawn Nowlin

The Salem VA Medical Center (VAMC) holds a Veterans Town Hall event every three months to keep its vets up-to-date on center policies. During the most recent town hall on February 21, VAMC Director Rebecca Stackhouse introduced the medical center’s new Chief of Staff, Dr. Frank Cannizzo, and discussed the implementation of Immediate Scheduling, which will decrease wait times for Veterans to get specialty care appointments.

“We know that it can be frustrating for Veterans in that we sometimes have a lot of phone tag that goes on,” Stackhouse said. “As of the end of December, which is the last set of full data that I have, 96 percent of our appointments were being scheduled within 30 days. Our average wait time for primary care visits is three days, specialty care is just under ten and mental health is just under three.”

Other people who spoke at the town hall include Deputy Chief of Staff Herimone Chappell, Chief of Fiscal Service Codie Walker, Executive Assistant to the Director Nancy Short, Chief of Health Administration Rob Taylor and Assistant Director of the Roanoke Regional Office Kathleen Sullivan.

“We know that many Veterans during that first year out of military service experience a great deal of stress and pressures,” Sullivan said. “We have representatives who reach out to every discharged vet to make sure they are ok and understand all of the resources available to them.”

Part of David Clark’s responsibilities as a Public Affairs Officer at the Roanoke Regional Benefit Office includes assisting with Veterans Benefit Administration outreach and educating eligible Veterans and the community about the mission and accomplishments of the VA. While not a Veteran himself, Clark is committed to serving those who have served.

“The first year following discharge from the military is often a critical time of transition. We want to inform them of the benefits they are eligible for,” Clark said. “A few of the services vets will be made aware of through Solid Start are health care, mental health, home loans and help returning to the civilian workforce. This year we anticipate reaching out to the more than 200,000 newly separated Veterans.”

Four individuals were also recognized during a pinning ceremony to honor the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War: Richard Gramling who served in US Air Force from 1966 to 1970, Lloyd Gergler who served in the US Army from 1967 to 1968, Douglas Thurman who served in the US Army from 1966 to 1967 and Robert Manns who served in the US Marine Corps from 1961 to 1968. Audience members gave them all a standing ovation towards the end of the event.

“As a commemorative partner, along with the Stonewall Jackson chapter of the Association of the US Army, and the Veterans Benefits Administration, the Salem VA Medical Center is proud to have presented Anniversary pins honoring the service of more than 2,000 Vietnam Veterans,” Salem VA Public Affairs Officer Rosaire Bushey said. “We look forward to continuing to recognize their service.”

The Salem VAMC provides healthcare to more than 38,000 Veterans in 26 counties in Southwest Virginia. The next town hall is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 21, in Building 5.

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