By James Pernol, Wilmington VA Medical Center Public Affairs Specialist
All Veterans have their own unique experiences from their time served in the military. After their time in service, each Veteran has decisions to make on where to get health care. For different reasons, some Veterans may choose not to get their care through the Veterans Health Administration.
One Marine Corps Veteran, who was injured in Vietnam, would say it was just having a talk with a doctor at a VA facility that helped him change his mind. VA’s motto is to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan,” by serving and honoring the men and women who are American’s Veterans, means a whole lot to retired Marine Corps 2nd Lt. John “Jack” Rine.
“I moved to Delaware 20 years ago and didn’t use the VA for my medical care, but used my civilian medical care instead, as I was having trouble getting my medical supplies,” he said. “The Georgetown VA clinic (Sussex County Community Based Outpatient Clinic [CBOC]) was available to me, and I met with Dr. Romina Thomas. And she turned the tide for me in my thinking of the VA and managed to help me get all my supplies with no issues.”
Every Veteran has a different journey during their health care than the average American. By providing a whole approach to their visit the Veterans receive the level of respect they earned.
“So much of medical care is about the intangibles. Am I listened to? Does someone care about what happens to me? The best way to gain confidence in your care is to deliver it properly, with genuine care and concern. The VA can help so many people by maintaining a culture of respect for Veterans that Veterans can recognize and be helped by. Displaying this message, keeping this culture alive is the best way to help our patients,” stated Dr. Romina Thomas, Primary Care Physician at the Sussex County CBOC.
Rine, who has been in a wheelchair since 1967 when he was wounded in Vietnam, explained establishing a relationship with a provider and getting care through VA has been so important to him.
“I’ve been a patient of hers ever since she has been there, and she has even taken over most of my primary care now,” he said. “She said if I ever had any issues to give her a call and she has changed my way of thinking and she is a top-notch doctor. The staff she has working with her, are fantastic and very cordial. I have been converted and it’s been good.”
These kind words were not lost on Dr. Thomas and she attributes it to the culture VA fosters in the people that are hired and the Veterans who come for care.
“In the VA, there are so many caring and compassionate people who work here because they get to meet people like Mr. Rine. It is so easy to talk with him and immediately see what a great contribution he has made to fellow Veterans and for our country. The VA attracts people who are motivated and moved by the wonderful and brave patients like Mr. Rine. Serving Veterans elevates our goals of care. We want to help and do our best for heroes like him,” said Dr. Thomas.
In the 21st Century, there are still many Veterans who are in need and haven’t taken advantage of services offered them. They either have outside insurance and use that or are unaware they may qualify for VA benefits. Veterans are more camouflaged than ever with their health needs. There are many ways for the Veteran to receive quality of care especially during the pandemic, from tele-health, video chats to in-person visits. Offering options for health care is paramount.
“I can understand someone’s apprehensive about the VA, I’ve experienced the good and the bad,” Rine stated. “I’m a positive person, I like to think, or I wouldn’t be here today. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, give it a try if it’s not for you then try other means. But I’ve been converted, and I have Dr. Thomas and the staff at Georgetown to thank for that. And I’m sure there are others like that throughout our country.”
Veterans who have not enrolled in VA health care can visit the VA Health Benefits webpage to find more information around eligibility and instructions on how to enroll.
Wilmington VA Medical Center provides health care services to approximately 33,000 Veterans through its main medical center and five CBOCs in Delaware and southern New Jersey. For more information, please visit our website.