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Friday, January 22, 2021

Changing lives. One Veteran at a time

For more than 230 years, brave servicemen and women have underwritten our freedom with duty, honor, and selfless sacrifice. Veterans Day is our nation’s opportunity to recognize those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. There are parades, speeches and ceremonies to acknowledge the tremendous and noble contributions Veterans have made to our country and to the world.

On Nov. 11, VA North Texas Health Care System joins elected representatives, veterans’ organizations, civic leaders and active, reserve and retired military members at the Veterans Day ceremony at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery and the Dallas and Fort Worth Veterans Day parades to celebrate the individual courage and commitment necessary to defend this great nation.

While the country pauses on this one day, employees of VA North Texas – more than 30 percent of whom are veterans themselves – strive every day to recognize, honor and support our nation’s heroes. Toward our goal of “Changing lives. One Veteran at a time,” VA North Texas has accomplished the following:

• Recognized by the National Center for Patient Safety in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 with the VA Patient Safety “Gold Cornerstone” Award for outstanding achievement in identifying, analyzing and resolving patient safety issues.

• Awarded the 2010 Robert W. Carey Excellence Award from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

• Became the first VA facility to perform implantation of vBloc, a technology-based, scientifically advanced weight loss therapy.

• Boasts world-renowned researchers such as Dr. Alina Suris, who received the prestigious George Winokur Award for studies focusing on new treatments for PTSD; neurologist Dr. Amyn Habib, who identified a cell mechanism that plays an important role in brain cancer and may provide a new therapeutic target; Dr. James LePage, who created an online vocational program for incarcerated veterans with mental illness; endocrinologist Dr. Roger Unger, a member of the National Academy of Sciences who was awarded the 2014 Rolf Luft Award for discovery of glucagon as a pancreatic hormone that raises blood sugar levels; interventional cardiologists Dr. Subhash Banerjee and Dr. Emmanouil Brilakis, who led VA North Texas to become the first VA hospital certified to perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement and the first VA to perform the Mitraclip procedure for mitral valve repair; and gastroenterologists Dr. Stuart Spechler and Dr. Rhonda Souza, whose pioneering and sustained research have led VA North Texas to world recognition as a center for the study of esophageal diseases.

• Activated the first Homeless Mobile Health Unit in the Nation to provide veterans living on the streets with both medical and mental health services.

• Reduced appointment wait times – currently, 96.2 percent of all appointments are scheduled less than 30 days from the Veteran’s preferred date.

• Improved the timeliness of disability evaluations in fiscal year 2015 by decreasing the average days from 58.7 days to 30 days and increasing full-time provider staff by 45 percent to support the claims volume.

• Expanding parking at the Dallas VA campus by opening a second 1,000-spot parking garage in January 2016 and beginning construction of a third garage soon after.

• Expanding and renovating our emergency department.

• Activated a new Tyler Primary Care Clinic accommodating 7,200 Veterans.

• Opening a new VA Clinic in Plano in 2016 to provide primary care, mental health, telemedicine, laboratory, and imaging services.

To further serve and support one unique group of Veterans, VA North Texas and The Lone Star Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America hosted the 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games this past summer. Competing in 18 sporting events such as basketball, handcycling, and a motorized wheelchair rally, more than 600 wheelchair athletes with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, amputations, and other neurological conditions pushed through physical limitations to improve their health, independence, and overall well-being.

Veterans Day is a time to give thanks to America’s Heroes for their love of country and the countless sacrifices they have made for the freedom we take for granted. The doctors, nurses, employees and volunteers at VA North Texas pay tribute by reaffirming our commitment to serve, support and care for each and every one of these brave men and women – one veteran, at a time.

Jeffery L. Milligan is director of the VA North Texas Health Care System. For more information or to enroll for health care at VA North Texas Health Care System visit www.northtexas.va.gov.

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