Facing increased demand for services at a time it is trying to rebuild a reputation tarnished by cover-ups of long wait times for medical and mental health care, theDepartment of Veterans Affairs is waging a campaign to get more volunteers into its hospitals and clinics.
“We have made progress over the past year addressing the challenges we face in delivering care and benefits to millions of Veterans and their families,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald. “While there is more work to do to honor our sacred commitment to veterans, we also recognize that VA cannot do it alone. We are asking Americans everywhere to join the Summer of Service and help us give back to those who have given so much to our nation.”
He said the department is working toward a June 28 open house at VA facilities nationwide to spur increased engagement with veterans, including more active volunteers.
Amanda Jones, spokeswoman for the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, said the system currently has about 130 active volunteers and is hoping to grow that number significantly over the next few years, especially when “we move in our new medical center” in New Orleans. The $1 billion facility in Mid-City is slated to open in 2016, though no specific date has yet been determined.
“Right now, we need volunteer drivers in the Houma, Bogalusa and Hammond areas and volunteers in Slidell, Hammond and St. John,” Jones said. “In New Orleans, we’re looking for volunteers to work our information desks and to serve coffee to Veteran patients, as well as some volunteers to work in our Community
Resource and Referral Center. These are the ones we have open currently,
but we look for volunteers all of the time as our need for them continues to grow.”
People can fill these positions by becoming regularly scheduled volunteers. To do so, they can contact Cynthia White in our Voluntary Service Office at 504-412-3700, ext. 5596, or via email at Cynthia.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jones said the VA has “a pretty robust” volunteer program at the Baton Rouge VA clinic, and doesn’t currently have any vacancies. “But if anyone is interested, we ask that they give us a call so that we can put them on our list for when vacancies do become available or if new positions arise.”
McDonald, a former Proctor & Gamble executive brought in by President Barack Obama to fix the problems at the VA, said there’s nothing more special than working with veterans, who served their country at great risk and sacrifice.
“There is no mission more noble than serving Veterans and their families,” McDonald said. “At VA, we constantly strive to improve the way we do our job. State by state, community by community, person by person, there are a number of ways we can all come together to serve Veterans. From expanded partnerships with the private sector and non-profit organizations, to accelerating hiring, to celebrating the commitment of VA employees and volunteers – we need the help of communities everywhere to succeed.”