• Supporting Our Veterans: U.S. Army Combat Vet Shares His Emotional Story of Service

    By Neil A. Carousso

    Jeffrey McQueen is currently the director of veterans services at Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island. He served the United States in the U.S Army 82nd Airborne Division from 1982-1988, seeing combat at age 19.

    “I found myself at the turning point, at a crossroads about making a decision between life and death and I chose life,” McQueen told this reporter on Thursday’s episode 10 of “The Neil A. Carousso Show Podcast” after describing his substance abuse and other personal issues after serving the United States in Grenada. “As a result of it, I’m in this position today where I allow my particular pain to become stepping stones to other individuals growth to wellness.”

    Mr. McQueen continues to serve the country and his community through supporting his fellow veterans who suffer from PTSD, homelessness and other medical conditions and personal issues upon returning from service.

    “If the community is engaging and getting involved and looking at what’s going on around them…if you see something, say something,” McQueen said referencing the New York City Police Department slogan, continuing, “If you see a veteran that is in dire need of support and not getting the support that they need regardless of discharge status veteran then you should be reaching out to find out what you could do to be able to aid them and know that there are those of us out here that are willing to engage and support and care for these veterans.”

    Veterans Health Alliance encourages and needs community support in order to accomplish their goals of “promoting the health and well-being of Long Island veterans and their families through advocacy and a broad array of services,” all discussed on last week’s podcast with Mr. McQueen.

    One way people can get involved is by attending a free conference on Tuesday, March 14th at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY.

    “As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have ‘officially’ wound down, the pace of deployments is much less,” reads a press release promoting the free conference, adding that because many service members have been home for upwards of 10 years, “the attention of government and the general public to veterans’ related issues has lessened somewhat.”

    One can register for the “Veterans Mental Health Conference 2017″ here as a way to learn more about giving back to those who served to keep us safe and protect our American values, freedom and our nation’s sovereignty.

    There are 167,000 veterans living on Long Island, east of New York City, according to the latest U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data. There is an estimated 39, 471 homeless veterans on a given night in the U.S. with 41 percent of homeless vets between the ages of 31-50, according to the V.A. and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    The Veterans Health Alliance of Long Island will also attend “Legislative Day” along with the Mental Health Association of New York State (MHANYS) to advocate for a wide array of matters including increased funding for the Joseph Dwyer Peer to Peer Program that allows veterans to heal by talking with their cohorts who understand the challenges of serving in the military. Other issues that will be brought to New York political representatives include funding for suicide prevention services, erasing stigma of mental illness for veterans, funding for mental health workforce and housing. People who are interested in attending to advocate on behalf of U.S. veterans should email Brent Russell, the program coordinator of Veterans Health Alliance or call (516) 489-2322, extensions 1312 or 1213.

    Last week, there were House committee hearings on the use of official time at the V.A. A Government Accountability Office report found the Veterans Affairs cannot track official time usage and there are no standardized processes in place to record and calculate official time and money spent by federal union representatives on union activity.

    President Donald Trump has vowed to take care of our veterans by reducing the V.A. bureaucracy and allowing veterans to receive healthcare at any private or public hospital with full federal government reimbursement in order to reduce wait times.

    Over 505,000 veterans have waited more than a month to see a doctor, according to a June report published by the Military Times. That number is up 23,000 from April. Of the 6.7 million medical appointments at the Veterans Affairs Department medical facilities in the country, 92 percent were scheduled within 30-days – a standard set by Congress in 2014.

    This interview originally aired on “The Neil A. Carousso Show Podcast,” which is uploaded daily to iTunes and this site. “The Neil A. Carousso Show,” a live streaming video program, airs Sundays at 12 Noon ET/9 AM PT.

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