Sylvia Froslie: Honoring veterans: A call to action for better healthcare access

Sylvia Froslie

Sylvia Froslie

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Veterans Day is a time to celebrate the brave men and women who have served our country. This year let us do more than express our gratitude, let's use this Veterans Day as an opportunity to encourage the veterans in our lives to seek the care they need.

At Veterans Guest House, we are committed to helping every veteran family that walks through our doors. We understand that the diversity of their needs is as broad as the diversity of those who have served our nation. For this reason, we serve veterans regardless of the type of medical care they require, their chosen provider, income, and even characterization of discharge. We firmly believe that a healthier veteran community fosters a stronger community for us all. We welcome veterans and their families, along with their beloved (house-trained) pets.

Veterans Guest House, nestled in the heart of the Reno-Sparks community and directly across from the VA Medical Center, has been dedicated to serving veterans and their families who travel from far and wide to access vital medical care. In the past year, we have extended our support to more families than ever before, but there are still countless heroes across Northern Nevada and California who struggle to access the healthcare they have rightfully earned. The barriers they face extend beyond navigating the complexities of the VA healthcare system; they are multifaceted and often insurmountable.

• Transportation: Many veterans, particularly those on a fixed income, find themselves disproportionately affected by rising inflation, making travel to Reno difficult. While there are subsidized travel programs available, they often operate on a reimbursement basis, necessitating upfront costs for gas, lodging, and food. One-night stays might be manageable for some, but for those requiring treatment over weeks, they face the choice to go into crippling debt or forgo the care they desperately need.

• Stigma: Most of us who wore the uniform were immersed into a culture that told us to “suck it up,” discouraging us from getting the care we needed during service and long after. Untreated diabetes, cancer, and other ailments are deadly if left ignored. For those living with mental health challenges, the consequences can be just as devastating — we lose an estimated 17 veterans to suicide a day.

• Social Abandonment: Most medical providers’ policies restrict scheduling or conducting procedures requiring anesthesia unless the patient has an identified adult for post-treatment care. For the 30% of veterans we serve who live alone and the estimated 25% who live alone nationwide, this often means going without critical care.

Veterans Guest House works diligently to eliminate tangible obstacles to healthcare access by offering free lodging, nourishment, and essential transportation crucial in their battle against medical challenges. Additionally, we have a dedicated personal care attendant who can help with more complex needs, post-operative care, transportation to medical appointments, and respite. However, we must rely on the loved ones of our cherished service members to help overcome the emotional barriers that often hinder veterans from prioritizing their health.

There is no one who knows our veterans better than their families and loved ones. They can discern when a veteran is being stubborn and also when something is genuinely wrong. So, this Veterans Day, let us not only celebrate our heroes and honor their service by extending our heartfelt thanks, but let us also be proactive advocates for their health and well-being.

Sylvia Froslie is CEO of a Veterans Guest House.


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