The Vet Center Northeast: You’ve got a friend

People who are get­ting out of the ser­vice have trouble re­ad­just­ing to fam­ily life and, just as of­ten, their fam­il­ies have a tough time get­ting used to them again, too.

Some vet­er­ans have trouble find­ing jobs. The longer they’ve been away, the harder the job search might be. Con­tacts are old; busi­nesses have moved. Some vets have much more ser­i­ous is­sues, like phys­ic­al dis­ab­il­it­ies or post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­order.

Vet­er­ans can get help. There are be­ne­fits, and there is help avail­able to get those be­ne­fits, said Mary Dillinger, a spokes­wo­man for the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs.

Coun­sel­ing, re­fer­rals and even help sort­ing out the Vet­er­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion pa­per­work are avail­able at the Phil­adelphia Vet Cen­ter North­east in Ol­ney, said the cen­ter’s team lead­er, Juan F. Ma­lav&ea­cute;. The staffers there speak the same lan­guage as vets, and the ser­vices are free.

For ex­ample, Vi­et­nam vet­er­an Jim John­ston, who lives near Grant Av­en­ue and Academy Road, stopped in Oct. 27 for help ob­tain­ing some be­ne­fit forms.

The cen­ter’s coun­selors will help vets get their vet­er­ans ID cards, which, in turn, will make it easi­er for them to ap­ply for be­ne­fits. Ma­lav&ea­cute; can find out a lot about a vet­er­an from his dis­charge pa­per­work, or DD214, Dillinger said.

“It states everything about you,” she ad­ded.

Vet­er­ans with dis­ab­il­it­ies are eli­gible for eight cat­egor­ies of be­ne­fits, coun­selor Jon McWil­li­ams said. The cen­ter’s per­son­nel can help a vet de­term­ine the ap­pro­pri­ate cat­egory.

“We as­sess what a vet­er­an’s needs are,” Ma­lav&ea­cute; said, adding that the cen­ter’s coun­selors try to get in­volved in help­ing the vet or re­fer­ring him or her to the right place for as­sist­ance.

For ex­ample, he said, coun­selors will help a vet get health care. “You’ve got to be healthy to work or go to school,” Ma­lav&ea­cute; said.

A top prob­lem, though, is get­ting vet­er­ans the in­form­a­tion about what is avail­able to them, said fam­ily ther­ap­ist Sarah Ir­izarry.

“A lot of vets as­sume when they got out that they’re in­eligible for (health) be­ne­fits,” Dillinger said.

What they should do, she said, is vis­it the Phil­adelphia Vet Cen­ter North­east to de­term­ine their eli­gib­il­ity.

ldquo;It won’t be a waste of time,” she said.

Dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view at the cen­ter, Ma­lav&ea­cute;, Dillinger, McWil­li­ams and Ir­izarry talked about some of the prob­lems they see con­front­ing vet­er­ans when they come home.

A primary ser­vice offered by the cen­ter is re­ad­just­ment coun­sel­ing, Ma­lav&ea­cute; said.

“We do that right here,” he said.

But what is “re­ad­just­ment”?

Ser­vice per­son­nel sta­tioned over­seas are counseled be­fore they head home about what to ex­pect and how to ease back to ci­vil­ian life, Dillinger said, but some have a very dif­fi­cult time.

“Some guys don’t listen, or don’t think it per­tains to them,” she said.

Nor­mal re­ad­just­ment prob­lems can be ag­grav­ated by post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­order, the coun­selors said. Fam­ily mem­bers can ex­per­i­ence a sec­ond­ary trauma, Ir­izarry noted.

She said coun­selors look for symp­toms of wider prob­lems — with­draw­al, sexu­al dys­func­tion, ar­guing, in­fi­del­ity.

Some­times, it can be the whole fam­ily that must re­ad­just — even to the most hum­drum as­pects of life out­side the ser­vice. If the fam­ily lived in a mil­it­ary en­vir­on­ment while one or both spouses were in the ser­vice, the change to ci­vil­ian life can be made stress­ful even while do­ing something as simple as gro­cery shop­ping.

When you are no longer shop­ping at the PX, or post ex­change, you’re no longer get­ting the low prices you’re used to, Dillinger said. At the PX, you wer­en’t pay­ing any taxes; in ci­vil­ian life, you are.

Leav­ing the ser­vice and com­ing home to your fam­ily, McWil­li­ams said, means giv­ing people some lee­way — and ask­ing for it too. 

ldquo;You have to rene­go­ti­ate your life,” he said. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

Help for vet­er­ans

Phil­adelphia Vet Cen­ter (NE), 101 E. Ol­ney Ave., is one of two fa­cil­it­ies where vet­er­ans can get in­form­a­tion on be­ne­fits and re­quired forms to ap­ply for the be­ne­fits, as well as coun­sel­ing.

The oth­er is at 801 Arch St., Suite 502, in Cen­ter City.

The cen­ter has sev­er­al free ser­vices for vet­er­ans who have re­turned from war zones:

• Al­co­hol and drug as­sess­ments and re­fer­rals

• As­sist­ance ap­ply­ing for vet­er­ans be­ne­fits and ser­vices

• Be­reave­ment coun­sel­ing for eli­gible fam­ily mem­bers

• Edu­ca­tion

• Em­ploy­ment guid­ance and re­fer­rals

• In­di­vidu­al and fam­ily coun­sel­ing 

• In­form­a­tion and re­fer­ral to com­munity re­sources

• Mar­it­al and fam­ily coun­sel­ing

• Med­ic­al re­fer­rals

• Sexu­al trauma coun­sel­ing and re­fer­rals

Staff: Juan Ma­lav&ea­cute;, team lead­er; Car­men Re­ver­on and John McWil­li­ams, coun­selors; Sarah Ir­izarry, fam­ily ther­ap­ist

Hours: Monday through Fri­day, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Phone: 215-924-4670 or toll-free at 866-360-2080.

Vis­it the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Web site at ht­tp://www.phil­

You can reach at

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