PITTSFIELD, Mass., May 18, 2012 – The Boston Red Sox Fenway Ambassadors and Wally the Green Monster brought the World Series trophies to the Pittsfield VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in support of a VA Open House for Veterans and their families on Friday, May 18.
The event was part of a week-long series of VA Hospital visits as part of the “100 Acts of Kindness,” a program that recognizes and supports the work of charitable organizations throughout New England during Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary season.
Edward McHugh, 73, a Pittsfield resident and Air Force Veteran, had just met with a VA eligibility counselor to sign up for VA health care when a Red Sox staff member brought over the 2007 World Series Trophy.
"That's wonderful," said McHugh. "It means a lot to get VA benefits and to see the Red Sox trophy today. Nice service."
More than 100 Veterans attended the event and 30 Veterans signed up for VA healthcare benefits and learned about health and services available at the Pittsfield clinic.
Today, about a third of all Veterans in western Massachusetts receive VA health care. The Veteran population in Berkshire County is approximately 10,000 Veterans, of which 3,415 are enrolled in VA healthcare.
The Red Sox visit helped VA attract Veterans to the open house.
“Having the Red Sox join us was a fabulous way to reach more Veterans in Pittsfield in receiving the medical coverage they have proudly earned,” said John Paradis, public affairs officer for VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System. The system, based in Leeds, Mass., operates a VA medical center in Leeds and VA clinics in Pittsfield, Greenfield, Springfield, Fitchburg and Worcester. The Pittsfield clinic provides medical appointments, medical screenings and preventive care as well as mental health outpatient services.
The event was geared toward Veterans who need assistance with applying for VA services, which range from health care benefits to disability, education and training, vocational rehabilitation and employment, home loan guaranty, and life insurance.
The “100 Acts of Kindness” program is an important theme for VA. In 2011, VA community volunteers contributed more than 35,421 hours of service to VA patients in central and western Massachusetts, including thousands of hours of community service at the Pittsfield clinic.
"The goal of our open house was to increase awareness about VA and other benefits and services available to Veterans in Pittsfield, and to assist with applying for these benefits,” said Roger Johnson, director of the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System, whose staff including members of the Pittsfield clinic will be supporting the open house.
In addition to primary care and overall VA health benefits, programs at the Pittsfield open house included services for combat Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; Women’s Health; Mental Health services and treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder; assistance for Veterans with diabetes; VA nutrition and exercise programs; support to family caregivers; and home-based primary care services.
“If you served in the Armed Forces and received an honorable discharge, you may qualify for health care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Johnson.