Outpatient Clinic, 166 E. Fourth St., Dunkirk, 203-6474 or 1-800-310-5001
Staff Dr. Nabil Jamal, medical director; Stephen Snyder, physicians assistant; Patricia Mleczko, administrator; Leslie Auria, behavior health coordinator, group coordinator, move coordinator; Theresa Markey, RN home base primary care; Sandy Draves, LPN; Jeff Lehnen, medical assistant; Cheryl Paluck, administrative assistant
Services: physical exams, on site laboratory, computerized EKGs, transfers immediately to cardiology department VA hospital, vaccines, nutrition clinic, move program, behavior health service, PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder - program
Services provided by the Dunkirk Outpatient Clinic - The Dunkirk facility also has tele-health services, which includes nutrition, smoking sensation, substance abuse and behavior health. Move tele-health services will be added in the near future, so patients do no have to travel to Buffalo.
Veterans Rep. Troy Smith, state veteran counselor, is at the Dunkirk facility every Thursday to help with veterans enrollment, claims, education benefits and pensions etc.
Lynn Reich from the Buffalo regional office is at the Dunkirk facility on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. The veterans regional office also helps veterans with enrollment, claims, education benefits pensions.
OND/OEF/OIF care management team - Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom - Initial assesment to identify needs and goals of each returning veteran, family and veteran readjustment support, spouse and family relationship building information regarding veterans' benefits and disability claims. Providing coping skills related to operational and combat stress vocational/educational, regional, TBI and poly trauma consults are performed.
Home base primary care - provides long-term primary care to chronically ill veterans in their own homes. Home base primary care is appropriate for veterans with chronic and long-term conditions that would make it difficult to come to a VA facility for treatment. A VA medical team coordinates the plan for care for each veteran and comes to the veteran's home and provides services. Home base primary care provides primary care, palliative care, therapy, disease management and coordination of care services.
My health vet, www.myhealth.va.gov, is a service provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs through the internet, a veteran can:
1. Record and track his/her health information and his/her family's health history.
2. Enter past and present military service events.
3. Keep activity and food services.
4. Record track and graph vital signs.
5. Maintain other health measures.
Veterans transportation service offers transportation from the Dunkirk Veterans Outpatient Clinic to the Buffalo Veterans Regional Hospital. By dialing 862-6800 a veteran can reserve a seat to make his next appointment.
Behavioral health services: individual and group counseling for a range of issues including PTSD, depression, anxiety, readjustment and substance abuse.
These are just some of the services offered to veterans who visit the Dunkirk Outpatient Clinic. Being dedicated to honoring all veterans, I love to spend as much of my free time not only writing about all the dedication these brave veterans have shown but I also like to help veterans and their families get information on records, awards and even grave markers from families who lost their veteran.
The main reason for writing about the VA health care system is when doing stories and talking about the VA health services, I've come across veterans who witnessed negative views on the VA, most going back to the late '60s and early '70s when the VA was not up to the standard it is today. It was a place that was overcrowded, understaffed, underfunded and with the war in Vietnam going in full force.
The VA had no end in sight and its patient list grew larger and larger. Most veterans complained of dirty facilities, never seeing the same doctor twice in a row and having doctors that could not speak the English language well. Movies like "Article 99" and "Born on the 4th of July" were prime examples of how the VA was viewed and operated. It was common for a veteran who had a 9 a.m. appointment to be seen sometime in the afternoon.
For us Vietnam veterans it was even worse. Some staff working at the VA didn't see the Vietnam conflict as an actual war. In their minds, the war was wrong and we had no right being there. Operations were the answer for every medical problem, young 18- and 19-year-olds were lined up in a row in the hallway waiting for their time on the operating table. Things got worse when the government realized they were hurting their servicemen in some cases more than the Viet Cong and NVA by a new chemical they used to clear a jungle in one day named Agent Orange.
With the understanding that Agent Orange was a major medical problem, on one hand they really didn't know the actual effects it carried and on the other hand it was used as a reason for conditions when the VA was unsure. Agent Orange also brought more surgeries and new procedures. I myself, after nine surgeries for circulation problems at age 20, was sent every Friday to Syracuse for an arm nerve block which actually put my left arm to sleep as it would do for a surgery. Their reason was by putting the arm to sleep, it may go back to normal by itself when the nerve block ended.
Agent Orange also caused much confusion and frustration when the VA made the veteran prove that he was in areas that were confirmed sprayed. This alone was almost impossible to prove unless one had been on a combat operation that was listed in his or her record book. These were only a few of the many reasons some veterans stopped using the VA and went with other medical facilities when they had medical insurance from their employers. Another major problem existed then but the VA had little, if any, knowledge on a larger problem that they were to face in the '80s. This problem was to be known as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
The veterans administration, after realizing the condition of its facilities, the medical staff, the services they were administering and the pressure it was receiving from military groups, decided to turn its operation totally around and to treat each veteran with the utmost care.
New facilities were built. The older ones were brought up to required standards. The staff is now dedicated to its patients with new up-to-date services. Doctors are now allowed 30 minutes for each patient. If more time is needed the scheduling clerk adds time in the doctor's schedule. Appointments are given with a 15-minute window so if someone had an 8 a.m. appointment, in most cases, they would be seen between 8 and 8:15 a.m. Transportation is now available for veterans needing to travel to Buffalo for special appointments. Up-to-date internet programs are available to any veteran who wants to track old appointments, records and renew prescriptions.
In closing, any veteran who witnessed below standard care with the VA in the past may now see a different VA. It may be worthwhile for you to give them another chance.
It's a medical facility that is 100 percent dedicated not only to the veteran but also to the veteran's family. I myself have witnessed the bad VA in the past and the VA that now has adequate funding, qualified staff and knowledge of today's medical and mental problems. It's a benefit you, the veteran, have earned.
The facility and staff are there and all one needs to do is give them a call. The Dunkirk Veterans Outpatient Clinic is dedicated to its veterans and if one were to use it, you would then know how far the VA has come.
Thank you Dunkirk Veterans Outpatient Clinic for your dedication to its veterans. Thank you Dr. Jamal and your staff for your services!