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SEPULVEDA VA TROOPS WORK HARD, DESERVE SUPPORT.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

The automatic lift welded to the back of Harvey Rose's van tells a story that often gets overlooked these days.

Despite the medical cutbacks in veterans services at Sepulveda VA, the staff and volunteers there are doing a heck of a job holding the place together for our local vets.

You can hate the war, Harvey says, but still support the troops.

The Sepulveda VA's own war is to end the cutbacks in services and keep the North Hills facility open and vital. The troops trying to do just that are the dedicated doctors, physical therapists, support staff and volunteers working there.

They're the heart and soul of the VA, says Harvey, a World War II vet who fought at Guadalcanal.

He stopped by Sepulveda last week to see about getting a ramp to wheel his scooter up and into the van when he has to drive somewhere.

At 82, Harvey's legs are pretty shot, and he gets around these days mostly in that scooter the VA issued him.

"When I asked for the ramp, they said I didn't need one. Instead, I was told to pull my van around back. A couple of guys came out and welded on an automatic lift for me.

"It's been incredible, more than I ever expected. I'm free to go any place I want now. You know, in all the years I've been coming to the VA, I've never met a bad person," Harvey says. "They've all been very gracious, going out of their way to help us veterans."

I've heard the same sentiments from hundreds of veterans and their widows over the years. They all hate the war -- the cutbacks at Sepulveda, and having to drive over the hill to the West L.A. VA for their medical appointments now.

But to a man and woman, they support the troops doing the heavy lifting at Sepulveda VA.

People such as Pam Murphy, widow of Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy, who has dedicated her life to cutting through VA red tape and making sure all vets get the services they deserve. People such as Becky James and the dozens of retired residents in the volunteer department who show up every day to do anything that's needed -- from picking up vets at their homes and bringing them to the VA or just sitting at a bedside holding a vet's hand or reading to him.

Last year, when the VA brass thanked the volunteers for the great job they were doing by cutting out the free $4.50 lunch they were given after working more than four hours a day, these people didn't blink an eye.

The volunteers kept on showing up free of charge, bringing their own lunch. They weren't there for the free lunch. They were there for the vets. If the VA was going to be that cheap, it wasn't their problem.

People such as recreation therapist Patty Jones and physical therapist Patrick Gregario, who work so hard with so little to make sure the vets get every opportunity to succeed.

Every year, Patty and Patrick field a team of local veterans 55 and older for the National Golden Age Games. And every year, our Sepulveda team brings home the lion's share of medals in sports competitions with other VAs throughout the country.

Even the VA itself bills the Golden Age Games as one of its most important programs in promoting rehabilitation, wellness and camaraderie among veterans.

So it got a lot of people scratching their heads a few years ago when the brass at Sepulveda decided it didn't have the money in the budget to help local vets without resources make the trip to participate in the games.

I wrote about it, and a lot of readers were kind enough to send along a donation to help our local team out. We wound up sending a team of 22.

No big surprise. The local VA says it still can't find the money this year for a program it thinks is so important, so the guys could use our help again to get them to the games in Houston this year.

Donation checks should be made out to GPF No. 2071, with Sepulveda Golden Age Game Athletes written on the memo line. Mail to Patty Jones, CTRS, (Rec. Therapy 117F), VA Medical Center, 16111 Plummer St., Sepulveda, CA 91343.

Like Harvey says, you can hate the war being fought over at Sepulveda, but still support the troops.

dennis.mccarthy(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3749

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Harvey Rose, showing the new lift the VA put on the back of his van so he could haul his scooter, is a World War II veteran who says Sepulveda VA volunteers -- unlike VA brass -- are doing a great job supporting vets.

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Words:807
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