A Vietnam Veteran makes a call for help. He is frustrated, angry, confused, depressed. He doesn’t understand how the Department of Veterans Affairs has rated his PTSD claim. He should be receiving more disability, more care.
Through the phone, his behavior becomes increasingly erratic. He threatens suicide, repeatedly. His family can be clearly heard, distraught in the background.
This veteran in crises did the right thing; he made the call for help and he called the right place. The American Legion, Department of Indiana Assistant Director of Rehabilitation Dave Wilson received this call Nov. 30, 2015.
“The veteran was advocating for suicide while on the phone with me, not once, but several times,” said The American Legion, Department of Indiana Service Officer Assistant Director Dave Wilson, still visibly touched months later when recalling the situation. “The veteran was already service connected for PTSD. You could just really sense that he was serious in carrying out this act.”
The entire Department Service Office sprang into action, communicating with their counterparts down the hall at the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs. Together, they coordinated with social workers, a VA psychiatric unit and the veteran’s local police department. Mental health personnel and police officers were immediately dispatched. They were able to get through to the veteran, remove him from the situation and get him help on his own will.
“Unfortunately, what happened with this veteran on Nov. 30, obviously is not an isolated incident, but I think it’s a perfect example of how the VA and The American Legion work together here at the Indianapolis Regional Office,” said Veterans Affairs Regional Office Director Mike Stephens. ”Often times, in fact daily, we are called upon to work together to make sure that we are covering our veterans and their families.
The American Legion, Department of Indiana Assistant Director of Rehabilitation Dave Wilson presents Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office staff member Samantha Price with an American Legion Certificate of Appreciation for her role in effectively saving a veteran-in-crises’ life at the Federal Building, Downtown, Indianapolis, Monday, April 25. (Photo by John Crosby, Department of Indiana, Communications Director)
“I think the American Legion Service Office, co-located on the same floor as us, is among the best outfits that I’ve seen. They’ve got absolutely the right philosophy there. We don’t keep an adversarial relationship. We recognize that the better the VA and The American Legion service officers work together, the better our veterans will be served.”
After the dust settled and the distressed his condition began to improve, the veteran wrote the Department Service Office a thank you note and enclosed a $500 donation to The American Legion.
The note read, “This check is to express the gratitude of my family and myself for the excellent help I received from Dave Wilson and the rest of this staff for assisting me with my adjusted claim for PTSD. This claim was presented in the most proficient and timely manner.
We wish this check to be used as you feel is best to help with your work for other veterans. We give as often as we can afford to other veteran agencies around the country, but this time it is our desire to donate to the Legion as you see fit.
Thank you again for helping to keep our nation and our veterans taken care of in the manner they have earned.”
“The American Legion and VA work together on a daily basis to complete our common mission, to serve our nation’s veterans,” said Department of Indiana Cmdr. Larry Lowry. “The synergy between our professionals at the Department Service Office and the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs helped save this man’s life. Their combined efforts not only improved this veteran’s condition, but increased his disability rating and care level at VA.”
The entire Department Service Office was honored during General Session at the 2016 Department Spring Conference in Indianapolis, Saturday, April 9. The American Legion, Department of Indiana also honored VA Regional Office Director Mike Stephens, and VA Regional Office staff members Steve Heinsen, Leonard Wallace, and Samantha Price for their combined efforts with The American Legion to save a veteran’s life.
Dave Wilson also nominated these three outstanding VA representatives for the Department of Veterans Affairs “I CARE” Award for going above in beyond to provide immediate care for this veteran in crises.
“When things get rough, we step in and help each other to do whatever it takes to care for our veterans,” said Wilson. “We work as a team. We work closely on very good terms with VA on a daily basis to serve our veterans. I can’t thank our service office and the VA Regional Office enough for all of their performance under pressure and for their support.”
The American Legion, Department of Indiana Cmdr. Larry Lowry recognizes members of the Veterans Affairs Indianapolis Regional Office and the Department Service Officer Staff for continued combined efforts together for the betterment of veterans’ lives. (Photo by John Crosby, Department of Indiana, Communications Director)
The Department of Indiana, Veterans Service Office deals with hundreds of Hoosier claims every month. The job requires tedious attention to detail, a deep knowledge of Veterans Affairs systems and nuances, and a passion to take care of fellow veterans. They work in tight quarters together in their bullpen, entrenched with files and stacked paperwork, sticky notes and ringing phone lines.
It can be emotionally taxing when working with veterans who suffer from PTSD, TBI, depression, addiction, homelessness, and the list goes on. For the service officers, it’s more than a job. It’s their life’s work. They don’t get a lot of recognition for the time, energy and emotion they invest, but attention is not what they’re after. When the opportunity to change a veteran’s life pays off, that makes it all worth it.
If you, or someone you know is a veteran and showing signs of depression, PTSD, or suicidal behavior, call your local American Legion service officer. Membership is not required and help is completely free of charge.
Find out how The American Legion, Department of Indiana can help change your life.
Together, we change lives for Veterans, their families and their communities.
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