- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dear Sgt Shaft,

I thought you might be interested in something I observed at the Orlando VA Outpatient Clinic. They have only one TTD, which is located in the pharmacy department. I saw a spouse come to the clinic because her husband (the veteran) could not communicate. That’s pretty sad, as communication is a critical element of patient treatment and care.

Rich M.

Orlando, Fla.

Dear Rich,

I voiced your concern to VA officials. The facility implemented an action plan to address the issue of its capacity for incoming Telecommunications Device for the Deaf calls.

Shaft Notes

The Sarge is looking forward to joining the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF), Rep. Michael Bilirakis, Florida Republican, and their guests at the 21st annual congressional awards reception on Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building. The annual event, held in conjunction with the BAVF’s Flag Day observance, honors members of Congress, the press and volunteers.

The recipients of the 2006 George “Buck” Gillispie Congressional Award for Meritorious Service are Sens. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, and Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat. The award is named in honor of the late Buck Gillispie, a blinded World War II veteran who devoted more than 40 years of service toward efforts to rehabilitate visually impaired veterans.

The Carlton Sherwood Media Award, named in honor of the Pulitzer- and Peabody-winning journalist and highly decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam, will be presented to Madeline LaCore, WUSA-TV (Channel 9), and Military.com. This year’s recipients of the George Alexander Memorial Award for Volunteer Service are E. “Swede” Huelsewede and William Lehtio. The George Alexander award was created in memory of a great friend of U.S. veterans. The BAVF’s Corporate Award will be presented to McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant.

A joint armed forces color guard will set the stage for the awards ceremony, and the Marine Corps’ Brass Quintet will entertain guests with a medley of patriotic music.

The congressional reception precedes the BAVF Flag Week picnic on Saturday in Silver Spring. The picnic will honor John Cosgrove, past president of the National Press Club. Special guests will include the wounded and their families at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Picnickers will be serenaded with live music by the Hula Monsters.

For additional information, call the BAVF at 202/462 4430.

• The Sarge has recently become aware that the House Veterans Affairs Committee will soon mark up the Blinded Veterans Continuum of Care Act of 2005 (H.R. 3579).

This legislation would do several things to improve the outpatient access to VA health care that our veterans with blindness and visual disabilities require. The Blind Rehabilitation Outreach Specialist (BROS) is a highly qualified professional. The training prepares such people to provide the full range of rehabilitation services in an outpatient clinic or the veteran’s home.

The important legislation substantially would increase the number of BROS in the VA system in three years, thereby boosting rehabilitative services for our nation’s blinded veterans. The VA has 90 visual-impairment service team coordinators who are case managers for blind veterans at the medical centers. The addition of a BROS greatly would enhance a full-team approach to the needs of veterans with blindness or low vision.

As part of another innovative rehabilitation initiative, patients from Walter Reed Army Medical Center are participating in a therapeutic program that involves riding horses from the storied Caisson Platoon, 1-3 Infantry Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard).

A therapeutic riding program has begun at the Fort Myer stables and is part of a world-recognized form of therapy for people with disabilities.

Soldiers from the Caisson Platoon have been trained to accommodate the patients’ needs and safety. The horses have been hand-selected and have received training to allow the patients to go through several slow therapeutic sessions.

For more information, contact Spc. Brian K. Parker of the Old Guard Public Affairs Office at 703/696-3147.

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