For many of the dozens of veterans gathered at Thursday, the first Combat Care Management Team Mobile Medical Unit stationed in front of the college’s veteran center was a welcomed alternative to what they would have usually done when seeking medical screening.
Ralph Villa, a 27-year-old veteran from El Monte, said he would dread the hours-long wait at a Veterans Affairs hospital.
“Here, I don’t have to deal with that,” said Villa, who served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Here, it just seems easier to get checked out and get the information I need.”
The V.A. of Long Beach collaborated with Citrus College’s Veterans Center to host a mobile medical unit for local veterans. In an effort to offer more accessible medical screening and information to student and local veterans, the V.A. hopes to coordinate additional mobile medical events at surrounding college campuses.
A V.A. team arrived at Citrus College Thursday in a bus equipped with two clinical exam rooms, offering free medical screening, preliminary care, referrals and follow-up appointments to local veterans.
Richard Beam, director of public and community affairs of the V.A. of Long Beach, said the program allowed more outreach to busy student veterans who may not be fully aware of their benefits, which includes free medical screening and healthcare for service connected disabilities.
“It can be confusing to navigate through the V.A. because the V.A. is a giant entity,” said Beam. “We know our student veterans are busy. Really, we should be coming to them to serve them. We should be serving our student veterans the same way they served us when they put on a uniform.”
Beam said a mobile medical unit on college campuses would offer veterans an opportunity to ask questions about their benefits and get checked out for injuries and conditions related to their service.
Injuries and conditions include traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic brain disorder, or other physical injuries obtained during service.
“If someone has blurry vision caused by traumatic brain injury, how would they know they have TBI? How would they know to get treated for TBI? That veteran would probably never know and not receive care for something we could be treating now,” said Beam. “There’s a lot of long-term repercussions they can have if they don’t receive care.”
Although geared toward student veterans, Monica Christianson, project director at Citrus College’s Veteran Center, said the event at Citrus College was open to all qualified veterans in the local area.
She said there are 350 student veterans at Citrus College, of which 250 receive benefits.
“We hope this event will get the ball rolling at other nearby college campuses,” said Christianson. Beam said the V.A. is reaching out to Mount San Antonio College, Azusa Pacific University, Chaffey College and Pasadena City College.
“We need to find partners like Monica who make it easy for us to come to college campuses when students are there to allow us to provide services,” said Beam. “We’ll try to come to as many colleges who will take us.”
For more information on the V.A., visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. For more information on the Combat Care Management Team Mobile Medical Unit, call (562) 826-5498.