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november/december 2008

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VA VOLUNTARY SERVICE REPORT
A Priceless Asset
BY JUDITH McCOMBS, NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE

In the most recent fiscal year, 564 regularly scheduled volunteers credited VVA with 81,190 hours in the VA’s Voluntary Service program; an additional 4,921 hours were given by individuals classified as occasional volunteers. Some of VVA’s VAVS volunteers have participated in the VAVS program for decades; others are relatively new.

VAVS was founded in 1946 to provide for our nation’s veterans while they are cared for at VA health care facilities. It is the largest centralized volunteer program in the federal government, supplementing staff and resources in all areas of patient care and support. Its mission is to provide a structured volunteer program under the management of VA employees, in cooperation with community resources, to serve America’s veterans and their families with dignity and compassion.

VAVS volunteers augment staff in hospital wards, nursing homes, ambulatory care, domiciliaries, community-based volunteer programs, end-of-life care programs, veterans outreach centers, national cemeteries, and Veterans Benefits Administration regional offices. VAVS volunteers and their organizations annually contribute millions of dollars in gifts, donations, and time. Monetary estimates aside, it is impossible to calculate the amount of sharing and caring VAVS volunteers give to veteran patients. Volunteers are a priceless asset to veterans and the VA.

The VAVS National Advisory Committee, the oldest federal advisory committee, advises the VA on the coordination and promotion of volunteer activities within VA health care facilities and on other matters relating to volunteerism. It makes recommendations to the Under Secretary for Health for the improvement of voluntary services to patients.

VVA adopted its first VAVS Resolution at the 1991 National Convention to “endorse, support, and encourage participation in the VAVS program at the chapter, state council, and national levels” and to “seek and maintain membership on the VAVS National Advisory Committee.” Subsequent resolutions reaffirmed and expanded VVA’s commitment to the VAVS program.

NAC membership is open to national organizations that provide volunteers or donations to VA facilities. The criterion for full voting membership is maintaining volunteers and VA-recognized participation on local VAVS committees at a minimum of thirty VA facilities. VVA received an appointment to the NAC as a Service Member effective January 1, 1995. The dynamic interaction of all three levels of VVA is crucial to maintaining VVA’s Service Member appointment.

VAVS is a convergence of VVA’s founding principle and its motto: By not abandoning veterans in the VA health care system, we are serving those who served America, through VAVS. It is imperative that VVA not just maintain its VAVS program, but enhance its viability, vitality, and vigorous expansion.

 

 

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