SWFL veterans often don’t know their medical benefits. This program changes that

A new program is helping our veterans in the hospital. It is the first of its kind in the nation.

When any of the 66,000 veterans in Southwest Florida end up in the hospital, they often do not know what their options are moving forward when it comes to benefits.

Volunteers from Lee Health and the American Red Cross are visiting Darryl Boulden. Boulden is an Air Force veteran who served in the Philippines, Germany and Kuwait. He is among the veterans Lee health is treating right now.

Thomas Vanasco is one of the volunteers helping veterans, like Boulden, as part of its new program.

“I love the veterans,” Vanasco said. “Sometimes they’re by themselves and they need an advocate, someone to help them along.”

Lee Health treats many veterans in Southwest Florida because the nearest United States Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital is about a two-hour drive away.

Kim Gaide, with Lee Health, said the coordinated effort is modeled after the Red Cross’ Mission at VA and military hospitals.

“We are hoping to achieve that our veterans will not fall through the cracks,” Gaide said.

They facilitate assistance to veterans by providing them with information about their benefits and connecting them with local services. To make life a little easier once the veterans get out of the hospital.

Right now, the program is underway at Cape Coral Hospital, but Lee Health and the Red Cross told WINK News they plan on rolling it out to hospitals across the Lee Health system in the months ahead.

“The more we can give freely of ourselves,” Gaide said, “the better place this world will be.”

It is a mission Vanasco said he is proud to carry out.

“I think it’s an amazing program,” Vanasco said.

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