Mobile Vet Center coming to Borger

A mobile vet center is coming to Borger to provide service for veterans who are dealing with personal and mental difficulties.The Amarillo Vet Center will have its Mobile Vet Center on hand for veteran outreach from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, April 23, at the Hutchinson County Annex located on Veta Street in Borger. The center is open to all veterans, their families, and the general public.William R. Donaldson, a counselor with the Amarillo Vet Center, said the purpose of the mobile vet center is to provide education about readjustment counseling services offered at vet centers.“All war zone vets qualify for counseling services,” he said. “War zone vets with post traumatic stress disorder or military sexual trauma may receive care at any Vet Center of MVC.”The center provides three humanitarian visits to non-war zone vets for information and referrals.“Certain families of active duty service men and women who died while on active duty may qualify for bereavement services,” Donaldson said. “We provide individual, group, and family counseling.”The Department of Veterans Affairs-Readjustment Counseling Service, or Vet Center for short, offers free counseling to returning veterans and their families in dealing with the effects of war.“This program was established in 1979 to deal with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD as it is commonly referred to as,” Donaldson said. “The disorder is not new, but the name is.”In the past, it has been known by other names. It was called “Soldier’s Heart” during the Civil War. In World War I, it was re-named “Shell Shock,” during World War II, “Battle Fatigue,” Korean War Veterans were diagnosed with “War Neurosis,” and Vietnam Veterans were initially labeled with “Vietnam Syndrome.”Donaldson said PTSD may occur after a person has been exposed to trauma in which he or she experienced or witnessed an event that involved death, serious injury, or mass destruction.“This can include events that occur in war, natural disasters, and acts of terrorism, crime, or abuse,” he said. “For veterans in particular, stressful traumatic events include combat zones, peacekeeping missions, training accidents, disasters, medical emergencies, and sexual assaults. These events cause the survivor to react with intense fear, helplessness, hopelessness, and horror.”Symptoms of PTSD include, but are not limited to, the following:•Recurrent, intrusive, and distressing thoughts about the event•Recurrent dreams, nightmares (also known as “night-terrors”) about the event•Flashbacks (a sense of reliving the event)•Distress caused by reminders of the event (sights, sounds, smells)•Alienation from family and loved ones•Isolation and avoidance of people and places•Emotional numbing and pushing family members away mentally•No sense of future and turning to self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, or food•Survivor’s guilt (surviving when others did not or behaviors required for survival)•Difficulty falling or staying asleep•Anger and range at self and others•Difficulty concentrating or remembering details of the event or events•Hyper vigilance or survivalist behavior•Exaggerated startled response (usually to loud noises)Donaldson said the latter symptoms are the beginning stage and will be enhanced by life stressors, such as finance, employment, or family problems. “The Vet Center and other parts of the Department of Veterans Affairs stand ready to provide needed assistance to veterans of all wars, especially the newly completed Iraq War and current Afghan War,” he said.He said all returning combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have access to free health care from the VA for five years from the date of separation, which bypasses the normal rules that require determinations of Service-Connected injuries or income levels.“The eligibility for counseling services for the Vet Center services are free for war-zone veterans and their families,” Donaldson said.The Vet Center offers readjustment counseling services in the form of individual, group, and marriage and family counseling. Veterans are provided referrals for benefits assistance. The center also provides substance abuse counseling, information, referral, and is a liaison with community agencies to get the care veterans need.“Bereavement counseling is offered to parents, siblings, spouses, and children of Armed Forces personnel who die in the service to our country,” Donaldson said. “Also eligible are family members of Reservists and National Guardsmen who died while on federally activated duty.”The center also offers service for military sexual trauma (MST). MST services range from sexual harassment to the extreme cases of rape and is gender-neutral. “All Vet Center Staff respect the privacy of all veterans and hold in strictest confidence all information disclosed in the counseling process,” Donaldson said. “No information will be communicated to any person or agency without the written consent except in necessary circumstances to avert a crisis (Privacy Act of 1974.)”The Mobile Vet Center in Amarillo is one of fifty MVCs used currently throughout the United States. Each MVC is staffed with a technician/driver and one MVC counselor, which makes it convenient to provide community education about Vet Center services. The center also brings readjustment counselor services closer to veterans within the broad geographical community.“It is a 38-foot motor coach which has two spaces to conduct confidential counseling with private doors and a small waiting room,” Donaldson said. “The MVC has a broad coverage area to include the entire Texas panhandle, the Oklahoma panhandle, and three northeastern counties of New Mexico.”He said the MVC offers most of the services found at Vet Centers. However, the MVC’s primary focus is on outreach.“MVCs can also be used in support with VA hospital or clinics in the coverage area to provide routine medical services, but can also be converted to support emergency medical missions such as hurricanes and other natural disasters,” Donaldson said.For more information on the services of the Mobile Vet Center, call 354-9779.