Providence VA Medical Center, Rhode Island
Providence VAMC Hosts PDHRA for Returning Aviators
On February 2nd and 3rd, the Providence VA Medical Center hosted a Post-Deployment Health Readiness Assessment (PDHRA) for members of the 126th Aviation Regiment. The event was the fifth PDHRA conducted with the Rhode Island National Guard since 2012.
A Post-Deployment Health Reassessment, or PDHRA, is a comprehensive health screening that examines for physical and behavioral health concerns associated with deployment. It gives Soldiers an opportunity to proactively identify and then (if needed) treat deployment-related health problems that may impact daily life, families, careers, and futures. Back aches, sore knees, and sleeplessness may seem like "normal" issues, but they could be symptoms of a larger health concern. A timely PDHRA is vital to identifying deployment-related health issues early before they develop into more serious issues. That is why the PDHRA is completed 90 to 180 days after redeployment because research indicates this is when symptoms of deployment-related health concerns may appear.
During the course of this PDHRA, each returning Soldier underwent a comprehensive health assessment and was offered the opportunity to establish VA healthcare. Just like every other Veteran who establishes care with the VA, these Soldiers underwent what, in VA lingo, is called a vesting examination which includes a primary care screen as well as mental health and traumatic brain injury (TBI) screens. They were enrolled in My HealtheVet. They also were afforded the opportunity to meet with benefits advisors, a health promotion and disease prevention nurse, a Vet Center counselor, a chaplain, and a Wounded Warrior Project representative. The VA Canteen Service prepared and served breakfast, courtesy of the Wounded Warrior Project, as well as lunch (American Chop Suey) courtesy of the Rhode Island National Guard.
Conducting a successful PDHRA is a team effort—from doctors, nurses, and health technicians, to psychologists, social workers, and x-ray technicians; from benefits, eligibility, and enrollment counselors, to support staff from the RI National Guard; from Canteen chefs and facilities management staff, to outside agencies like the Wounded Warrior Project. “This PDHRA was the first in which we had our blood draw and Pharmacy open in support of the event” says Rochelle Fortin, OEF/OIF/OND Program Manager. “Also, both our Chaplain Service and our Substance Use team were available. All these services were a great benefit to our returning Veterans.” All total, 130 Veterans were served over the 2-day period.
Rochelle also noted that this PDHRA was the first in which we opened our Women’s Health Clinic—which provided women Veterans will full women’s health services. They were also given the opportunity to vote on the art work for our facility’s new women Veterans clinic scheduled for opening this spring. Private First Class Kali Main, a supply specialist, had never been to the VA before her deployment but was pleasantly surprised by her experience at the VA. “Everyone here knows what they’re doing…I would definitely come back.” Captain Teresa Hupka, a Blackhawk pilot, echoes this sentiment. Like PFC Main, she thought the VA was for retired military and not for returning Veterans. “I’m impressed with the various resources available to returning Veterans.”
It’s not only the Veterans who express satisfaction with the conduct of the PDHRA. Conducting the PDHRAs is rewarding for VA staff as well. “All staff shared how excited they were to participate in the event and give back to those who have served,” says Erin Butler, Case Manager with the OEF/OIF/OND Program.
Soldiers of the 126th Aviation Regiment returned this past October from a 9-month deployment to Kuwait, where they performed aviation support missions with Blackhawk helicopters in Southwest Asia. The Providence VA Medical Center would like to thank them for their service!