"You are supposedly partial to veterans. And you like to write about misconceptions. How about that big misconception on Bailey Avenue that most people call Veterans Hospital?"
The person who dropped the above words on me knew that I am indeed "partial to veterans." And he knew that the main reason I boycotted the hospital on "No Greater Love Day," Feb. 14, until last year was one shared by more than a few others.
No matter what your are told, the care of veterans is a political football. So this one is for the staff of Veterans Administration hospitals everywhere.
The problem might even be that veterans know so little of what they are entitled to. It is similar to the reason why few of them wore the "Ruptured Duck" discharge pin after World War II. Indeed, the syndrome was so prevalent in my neighborhood that one person who wore it constantly was sneeringly called "the veteran."
OK, what are the misconceptions?
Item: Many veterans believe that only combat veterans are eligible for treatment.
Fact: If that were true, there would be no VA hospitals. It is not true, and readers are encouraged to call 1-716-862-3740 or 1-800-532-VETS, extension 3627.
Item: Many female veterans believe Veterans Hospital is "for men only."
Fact: Such people haven't seen the Helen Jacob Wellness Center, named for a dedicated volunteer. Again, call the numbers listed.
Item: Many veterans believe that their current insurance program makes them ineligible for VA treatment.
Fact: Not true, as those who answer the phone calls will tell you.
Item: Many veterans feel that they won't be treated unless their injury is service-connected.
Fact: A look at some of the ailments treated at the upcoming Health Fair (described below) puts the lie to that.
Item: Veterans have to travel too far for treatment.
Fact: Not true. There are many VA hospitals in our state. In some areas, vets have to travel 500 miles for treatment.
Now for the Veterans Health Fair, which will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. It will be hosted in good style by Niagara Frontier Post 1041, American Legion. Parking is also available next door at Wegmans' unfinished store lot that abuts the post, and mark down Wegmans as a chain that is friendly to veterans.
Of course, I did a double take when I read that one of programs is the "Smoking Cessation" number. It says here that no program has done more to start veterans smoking than the 10-minute break. And before you argue with that contention, remember the line, "Smoke if you've got 'em."
A week ago, a friend was at a wedding and saw someone at another table light up. Wanting to smoke his pipe, he asked, "Is the smoking lamp lit?" He didn't get that question out of the blue.
Other programs will touch on cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, audiology, diabetes and other problems. And staffers from the hospital will be there to answer questions about education, home loans and other benefits.
The most important line in the VA letter is the one that says, "You don't have to be a member of a veterans organization to come."
That is worth repeating and will be. "You don't have to be a member of a veterans organization to come."
During a talk the other day with a Veterans Hospital official, I said, "Since arriving in 1967, I have done volunteer work in your place. I even got extra parking places for the volunteers. Yet I didn't know that you had a PX in the building until a neighbor told me about it six years ago."
The other person said, "Of course there is a store in our building, and it's tax-free. But there is no money with which to advertise its services."
Now for the one about the veteran who dies and goes to the Pearly Gates. When St. Peter asks him how he got there, he says, "Flu."
He must not have been at the Veterans Health Fair where flu shots will be offered.
Monday's Score: Colts 27, Bills 23.